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Bridge Inspection Revisions Released

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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On Tuesday (Nov. 12), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and U.S. Department of Transportation released a 102-page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding updates to the National Bridge Inspection Standards.

The changes are required as per The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which was passed into law by former President Barack Obama on Oct. 1, 2012.

According the FHWA, the updates will address MAP-21 requirements to "incorporate technological advancements including the use of unmanned aerial systems, and address ambiguities identified since the last update to the regulation in 2009.”

The summary also reports that the FHWA plans to repeal two outdated regulations: The Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program and the Discretionary Bridge Candidate Rating Factor.

What Does This Mean?

As reported in the AASHTO Journal, the FHWA has proposed revisions that will apply to the inspection of bridges on all public roads, on and off federal-aid highways and includes tribal-, federal-, public- and privately owned (connected on each end by a public road) bridges.

In taking a more “risk-based approach,” the Administration states that the proposed changes were made to offer consistency with MAP-21’s provisions, “which includes new requirements for a highway bridge inspection program, maintaining a bridge inventory, and reporting to FHWA the inspection results and, in particular, critical findings, meaning any structural or safety-related deficiencies that require immediate follow-up inspection or action.”

The FHWA reports that the approach isn’t a requirement, but that bridge owners may choose to use it on some or all their bridge inventory. However, the mandated collection and use of element level bridge inspection data will be required. The FHWA has offered guidance regarding these changes in a document titled, “Specification For The National Bridge Inventory Bridge Elements.”

A proposal for reestablishing inspection intervals—based on certain factors—has also been made. While an inspection interval tolerance of three months beyond the inspection date has been proposed, extended routine inspection intervals up to 48 months, and 72 months for underwater inspections have also been established.

In addition to these major changes, the FHWA will also be repealing The Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program and the Discretionary Bridge Candidate Rating Factor, and has proposed several new terms in order to promote clarity and uniformity in the regulations to be implemented.

Finally, the NPRM also addresses the use and evaluation of inspection technology, where the FHWA and its stakeholders will update its bridge inspection guidance documents.

The new rulemaking is slated to cost approximately $1.65 million annually. Comments on the NPRM are being received  until Jan. 13, 2020.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Department of Transportation (DOT); DOT; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Government; Inspection; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Regulations

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