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FHWA Extends Bridge Inspection Comment Period

Friday, January 24, 2020

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Since proposing a 102-page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding updates to the National Bridge Inspection Standards in November, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced an extension for the public comment period. Previously, the comment deadline was Jan. 13.

In a statement by FHWA, the administration believes the extension will allow “interested parties sufficient time to review and provide comprehensive comments.”

About the Rule

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, required that changes be made to the National Bridge Inspection Standards.

According the FHWA, the updates 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.”

drnadig / Getty Images

Since proposing a 102-page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding updates to the National Bridge Inspection Standards in November, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced an extension for the public comment period. Previously, the comment deadline was Jan. 13. (Pictured: Fort Pitt Bridge, located in Pittsburgh.)

In an effort to make the necessary changes, FHWA plans to repeal two outdated regulations: The Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program and the Discretionary Bridge Candidate Rating Factor.

The FHWA has also 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.”

Although this approach isn’t a requirement, 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 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.

What’s Happening Now

While Transport Topics reports that early comments on the rulemaking were supportive of the new approach, but hesitant about the cost to make the changes, FHWA has extended the comment period to March 13—a 60-day extension.

Additionally, the FHWA has also proposed to update the Recording and Coding Guide for the Structure Inventory and Appraisal of the Nation's Bridges. The final draft—the Specifications for the National Bridge Inventory—can now be found on the docket. FHWA will be accepting comments on these changes through March 13.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Government; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Inspection; NA; North America; Quality Control; Regulations; Safety

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