Better Bridges 2012 Bridge Inventory
Better Roads Staff
“This will ensure that the number of structurally deficient bridges on state-owned highways, which peaked at 1,168 in 2004, will be essentially eliminated by the end of the decade,” says Oklahoma DOT Secretary Gary Ridley. “After decades of major bridge problems, Oklahomans will finally have a safe and reliable bridge network that meets the needs of our growing state, and one for which we can all be proud.”
Gotcher adds, however, that if one aspect of Oklahoma DOT could be changed to improve bridges, it would be to add more bridge inspectors and program managers. Additional qualified personnel would help keep our inspectors current and further improve the quality. The supply of qualified personnel falls short of the inspection demands.”
In Maine, funding is still the biggest challenge for lowering the rate of the state’s deficient bridges. MAP-21 will not make a difference with the three bridges closed this past year in the state because of structural failure or collapse and the eight closed in the last five years for that reason, Benjamin Foster, assistant bridge maintenance engineer with the Maine Department of Transportation, tells Better Roads. But Foster expects his agency to be able to lower the rate of deficient bridges in this coming year through “bonds for bridge work.”
The West Virginia Department of Transportation does not foresee lowering its rate of deficient bridges in the coming year. Insufficient funding will defer important work, according to W. Kyle Stollings, director of the maintenance division for West Virginia DOT. However, he does say that MAP-21 “stabilizes the planning process.”
The California Department of Transporation, commonly known as Caltrans, often leads the way in trends and thought within the industry. The agency believes that MAP-21’s two-year commitment of funds gives Caltrans and local agencies “a measure of certainty needed to plan and deliver bridge improvement projects,” says Matt Rocco, Caltrans media relations manager. He says that in the short term, through fiscal year 2012-2013, no major changes to project funding is anticipated. “However, MAP-21 includes performance and accountability requirements, which in the long term, could affect schedule and funding decisions for bridge and highway improvement projects,” Rocco says. Caltrans does not “anticipate that funding constraints will affect priority safety projects.” Caltrans invests about $450 million each year to protect and preserve state-owned bridges, Rocco says.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) spends about $230 million to replace or rehabilitate structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges through the Highway Bridge Program, according to Alan Kowalik, P.E., bridge engineer with TxDOT. An additional $125 million through other categories of funding is also used to replace or rehabilitate SD and FO bridges, he says, adding that “MAP-21 is a step in the right direction.”
For the short-term outlook, says Cody Axlund, bridge inventory/inspection engineer for the South Dakota Department of Highways, “MAP-21 has helped our discussion for bridges on the National Highway System. For all other bridges within our state, MAP-21 has added to uncertainty of available funding since it eliminated a dedicated funding pool for bridges.”
Bridges now need to compete against all other federal aid eligible expenses for the funding, Axlund notes. “Fortunately for our local governments, in South Dakota, our Transportation Commission has elected to continue with the same allocation for available bridge funds for Fiscal Year 2013 and Fiscal Year 2014 as was used in Fiscal Year 2012 with a minor percent adjustment as was received in all STP funds for South Dakota,” he says. “The uncertainty continues since MAP-21 is only a two-year bill, and we are now underway with try to program and begin design for Fiscal Year ‘15 structures.”
Minnesota reports that only 14 percent of its combined total bridges are SD/FO (tied for fourth-best in the nation with Wyoming and Wisconsin). That’s 1,856 of the state’s total 13,735 bridges. The state’s total Interstate and state bridges is also tied with Iowa and South Dakota at 9 percent for having the fourth-lowest percentage of SD/FO bridges. North Dakota has lowest percentage of total interstate and state bridges that are SD/FO with only 5 percent meeting this definition. Wyoming comes in second-lowest with 6 percent (14 percent of all bridges in the state are SD/FO) rated as SD/FO. Nebraska has the third-lowest with only 8 percent (23 percent of all bridges in the state are SD/FO) meeting the SD/FO classification.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is “committed to managing a safe system of bridges in Minnesota,” Thomas Martin, bridge data management, Minnesota DOT Bridge Office, tells Better Roads. The state expects to be able to lower its rate of deficient bridges in the coming year, he says, with “dedicated state funds and bonds for F/C [fracture critical] and deficient bridge replacement and rehabilitation projects.
“Keeping bridges in a state of good repair is a funding priority, and in 2008 the Minnesota State Legislature established a 10-year program to address structurally deficient and fracture critical bridges,” Martin says. “State bond dollars, along with federal dollars, fund this state highway bridge repair and replacement program. Having a new reauthorization bill will assist MnDOT in our assumptions of the level of federal funding that will be available to us in the next two federal fiscal years.”
Wayne J. Seger, P.E., Division of Structures, Director, with the Tennessee Department of Transportation Bridge Inspection/Repair Office, says the agency is “focused on structurally deficient bridges in the inventory for replacement and/or repair to retire the deficiency.” Of the 15 bridges closed in Tennessee in the past five years and one this past year because of structural failure or collapse, “all have been or are being replaced or repaired,” Seger says. “We had a major flood in middle and west Tennessee in May 2010. It forced us to close 54 bridges. However, in most of these cases, it was the approach roadways that had washed out.” Only 10 bridges needed to be closed due to structural damage or complete washout, which are the 10 included in the 15 the state listed as those there were in imminent danger of collapse or had already collapsed or had been taken out by a flood, he says. “We have had many more that had been closed following an inspection due to deterioration in an element or elements that thorough evaluation would not support at least three tons,” Seger says. “These were closed, and in most cases, the owner would repair the deteriorated member so that the structure could be put back into service.”
Seger points out that most of the state’s bridge repair projects are 100-percent state funded, and says that “MAP-21 will allow other types of transportation projects to compete for potential bridge funds.”
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