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DOT Tightens Bridge Oversight, Spends $9.5M for Innovative Projects

Monday, March 21, 2011

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The Federal Highway Administration will more closely monitor state bridge inspections and maintenance while funding several projects to reduce bridge congestion and extend life, under two new Department of Transportation initiatives. 

Ray LaHood


“There is always room to do better”
on bridge safety, said Transportation
Secretary Ray LaHood.

“The safety of our nation’s bridges is of paramount importance,” DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday (March 21), in announcing the increased bridge oversight.  “There is always room to do better, which is why we have launched this new safety initiative.”

Targeting Inspection Specifics

The new approach allows FHWA to more clearly and easily identify bridge issues in each state.  Previously, FHWA prepared a written assessment of a particular state’s bridge inspection program based on the outcome of a general review of key inspection areas.

Under the new system, FHWA will replace the narrative with an actual grid of 23 specific inspection program areas to identify potential safety challenges more easily.  Inspection areas include such items as bridge load limits, loss of sediment from the foundation due to erosion, and inspection frequency by individual states.

Because the new system is based on more objective data, it provides for more consistency in the bridge inspection program nationwide and more targeted approaches to identifying problem areas in specific states.

Sharing Best Practices

In addition, during the last year, FHWA performed supplementary error-checks on data submitted by states, conducted workshops and created working groups with states, industry and academia to promote and share best practices in bridge inspection and preservation.
“We take our stewardship role very seriously,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez.  “As part of our ongoing commitment to the bridge program, we have adopted these measures to ensure the continued safety of our nation’s bridges.”
Reducing Rehab Backlog

President Obama’s proposed Fiscal Year 2012 budget calls for $70.5 billion to maintain and build roads and bridges, including $320 million for bridge inspections. The proposal would reduce the backlog of bridge rehabilitation projects first identified in 2006 by 50 percent by 2017, DOT says.  Since 1994, the percentage of bridges in the worst condition has declined from 19.4 percent to 12 percent.

The FHWA helps ensure the safety of the nation’s bridges through federal inspection regulations and the oversight of state programs.  It also provides funding to assist states in replacing and rehabilitating and preserving bridges. 

Roads, Bridges to Get $9.5M

DOT has also announced that it will provide more than $9.5 million for 15 projects in 13 states and Puerto Rico that employ innovative construction technologies to improve safety, reduce congestion and create high-quality, long-lasting highways and bridges.

"President Obama has urged us to win the future by encouraging American innovation," LaHood said in that announcement March 10. "This money will pay for technologies that will help states build smarter, better, faster, cheaper and with less impact on the traveling public."

Administered through the FHWA Highways for LIFE program, the money is intended to encourage use of proven technologies and practices that are not yet widely used. These 15 projects will use innovations such as prefabricated bridge elements, precast concrete pavement slabs, warm-mix asphalt, road safety audits and paving techniques on the road shoulders to reduce traffic accidents.

Focus on New Technologies

"These grants give states an opportunity to use technologies they might not normally consider," said Mendez. "These innovative techniques can save money, reduce construction times and deliver roads and bridges that are safer and last longer."

The grants were grouped by those that focused on providing faster construction, those that focused on longer life and those that allowed for less traffic disruption.

The following projects will receive grants:

Faster Construction

• Iowa DOT will use $400,000 to replace a bridge on U.S. 6 with a prefabricated bridge system. The use of accelerated construction techniques will limit the impact of the project on the traveling public to 14 days versus six months using conventional construction methods.

• Massachusetts DOT will use $1 million to replace 14 superstructures on seven bridges on I-93 in Medford in one construction season (about eight months). Using the prefabricated bridge elements will result in a safer construction environment. With traditional methods, this project would have taken three years.

• MassDOT will also use $285,680 to replace the Fleury Bridge on Mountain Road using three precast concrete beams, cutting project construction time by two-thirds to about six months.

 Fleury Bridge


Massachusetts’ Fleury Bridge is one of
15 projects that will benefit from $9.5
million in federal funds for innovative
bridge construction technologies.

• Ohio DOT will use $1 million on performance contracting and a two-step best-value design-build procurement process when it reconstructs the I-71/I-670 interchange in Columbus. This type of contracting is expected to cut construction time in half.

• Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development will use $1 million to add a continuous turn lane on LA 511 in Shreveport. A range of innovations will be used to enhance construction speed by 34 percent compared to conventional approaches.

Longer Life

• Oregon DOT will use $500,000 for accelerated construction methods when it replaces the Burnt River Bridge on U.S. 30 in Baker County. The new bridge is designed to last more than 75 years.

• The Pennsylvania DOT will use $1 million to improve safety and the design of the roadway when they rehabilitate a section of State Route 3011 in Lackawanna County.

• The Rhode Island DOT will use $520,000 to replace the structure for Bridge No. 435 in East Greenwich with precast concrete elements to speed construction, enhance quality, reduce the need for future maintenance and keep construction time to about six months, two months less than using traditional methods.

• Utah DOT will use $1 million to replace the Manderfield Bridges on I-15 in Beaver County with low-weight hybrid composite beams that reduce construction time and will provide a service life beyond 100 years.

• The Washington State DOT will use $1 million to replace the McDonald Creek Bridges in Olympia by using innovative sustainable bridge columns to reduce the potential for damage from strong earthquakes.

Less Traffic Disruption

• The Indiana DOT will use $226,000 on a section of State Route 13 under the Interstate 69 overpass in Madison County that has been hit by trucks several times due to the low clearance. Thinner precast concrete pavement will be used to allow a few more inches for clearance and will expedite construction and minimize traffic disruption.

• The Minnesota DOT will use $150,000 to install precast concrete panels to expedite the replacement of a bridge on U.S. 53 over Paleface River in St. Louis County. The agency anticipates a three-week reduction in construction time to about two months.

• The New York State DOT will use $780,000 to reconstruct the I-590/Winston Road interchange in Monroe County using an innovative interchange design to eliminate left turns, which reduces the crash rate by a third. The new design is about 25 percent less expensive than the traditional partial interchange design.

• The Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority will use $95,000 to replace Bridge No. 1828 on PR 140 in Barceloneta using geosynthetic reinforced soil system technology to minimize traffic disruption, cut construction time and reduce cost by 20-30 percent.

• The Texas DOT will use $600,000 to replace the southbound bridge deck of IH-35W over 36th Street in Fort Worth with a prefabricated deck, which will greatly reduce construction time by eliminating lengthy steps required in traditional methods.

For more information on the program and the technologies being used for these projects, visit


Tagged categories: Bridges; Coating inspection; Health and safety; Regulations; Roads/Highways

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/22/2011, 8:24 AM)

Precast concrete beams are innovative? Texas has been using them extensively for quite a few years now. I must be missing something (admittedly, I am not a concrete guy.)

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