Washington, D.C. — The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will begin collecting new data that will help the agency more closely monitor bridge conditions throughout the nation. Beginning this month, state departments of transportation will provide the new data to FHWA's National Bridge Inspection Program.
"Smart data can drive smart infrastructure planning and make transportation safer," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx. "We can use this data to help state and local governments target bridge investments, but the single biggest impact on roads, bridges, and all modal transportation is the long-term transportation bill the Department sent to Congress."
Bridge inspectors have traditionally given one overall score to rate the condition of a bridge's surface, or deck, to reflect both the severity of a problem and whether it is widespread or confined to a small area of the bridge deck. Under the new system, each square foot of the bridge deck, and its other elements, such as the joint seals, receive a separate rating. Dividing bridge components into smaller, more manageable elements will ensure engineers understand the extent of bridge deterioration, which will help them make more informed decisions about repair, preservation and replacement. The change in data collection is a requirement in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act.
"Instead of an overall characterization of a bridge deficiency, we'll be able to immediately hone in on the source of the problem," Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau said. "This is part of our ongoing commitment to improving the bridge program that has led to the overall decrease in the percentage of deficient bridges nationwide."
Over the last decade, even as the total number of bridges in the nation's inventory increased by nearly 15,000 bridges – from 595,668 to 610,749 – the percentage of bridges classified as structurally deficient dropped from 13.1 percent in 2005 to 10 percent last year.
The FHWA provides funding to assist states in replacing and rehabilitating and preserving bridges. The agency helps ensure the safety of our nation's bridges through federal inspection regulations and the oversight of state programs.