Better Bridges: Bridge Inventory 2009 State of Bridges
“Additionally, we must develop a full set of plans, then send it in and wait,” Jones says. “The process is difficult, time consuming and expensive. The frustrating part is [that] some of the reviewers do not understand the bridge engineering principles involved. And some of solutions are not hydraulically feasible.”
Adds Steve Anderson from Nebraska’s Department of Roads, Bridge Division: “Environmental constraints hamper the swift programming and completion of projects.”
Time is ticking
Time constraints are also a major roadblock to repairing and rebuilding the bridges that need the most work, says Dittrich.
“When it came to using ARRA Funds, often the the bridges that needed the most work, weren’t the ones worked on,” Dittrich says. “I had a number of bridges that we proposed in the early part of the ARRA Program that we wanted to work on and do them right.” But as time progressed, he says, the deadlines were getting closer and closer so although the agency had money to spend, functionally obsolete or structurally deficient bridges weren’t the ones necessarily worked on. Basic maintenance was done to some of the bridges, but Dittrich says his agency will have to go back and do additional work on those where we couldn’t take care of all the problems. “To increase the vertical clearance under bridge to address the obsolescence can take a while unless a project is ready to go,” Dittrich notes.
And the time to finish a project once it does get underway is problematic. For example, he says, when it’s time to do a concrete pour, “instead of slowing down to do it right, as soon as concrete trucks get out there [on the jobsite], people just rush, rush, rush. Everyone is in a hurry.”
Richard Dunne, P.E., manager of structural engineering for the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), also feels the time crunch. He says if he could change any aspect of his department to improve the bridges under its jurisdiction, it would be “[a] willing[ness] to inconvenience motorists more.” Currently, Dunne says, “we do the majority of our work at night and/or in very small time windows.”
The Kansas Department of Transportation also identifies with this challenge. “It seems like no one wants to take the heat for detouring traffic, so we end up carrying traffic through construction, which requires the work to be phased,” says KDOT’s John Jones. “In some instances — like a rail repair — this is less of an issue. However, for deck repair or replacement, this becomes challenging.” v
Even with the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), better known as the stimulus, funding availability is still one of the biggest challenges in lowering the number of states’ deficient bridges, say respondents to the Better Roads survey. From The Midwest to the South to the Southeast to South Dakota and even as far-flung as Hawaii and Washington, D.C, agency officials still rank funding availability as one of the greatest challenges to repairing derelict bridges.
However, ARRA has provided some relief and has increased the level of funding for bridges. It has enabled maintenance and reconstruction of some bridges that would otherwise not be possible. The results of ARRA spending range from having no effect or a minimal effect to modest or significant impact. These responses are not unfamiliar to highway transportation official assessing the impact of the stimulus. Anwar Ahmad, assistant bridge engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation, tells Better Roads that the stimulus “was a much-needed booster for our bridge program.”
David Koenig, bridge structural service engineer with the Missouri Highway and Transportation Department, agrees, noting that the ARRA has had a very positive, “large impact” on Missouri’s bridge projects. “Many bridge projects have been moved up in the schedule and more have been addressed,” he says.
Minnesota has benefited from stimulus money. “Over 50 bridges on Minnesota’s state and local highways have been advanced with ARRA funding,” says Tom C. Styrbicki, P.E., bridge construction and maintenance engineer, Minnesota Department of Transportation Bridge Office. “The projects include everything from minor repairs to full bridge replacements. The ARRA program was a particular benefit to bridges in the local system.”
Steve Anderson, Nebraska Department of Roads, Bridge Divisions, says the stimulus “has accelerated a few projects [at the] state and local level.”
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