Bridge Inspection and Bridge Management
Bridging the Infrastructure Gap
DP-71 Bridge Management Systems
      Bridge Management Training
      BMS Training for Bridge Inspectors

More than 30 percent of the Nation's 575,000 highway bridges are functionally obsolete or structurally deficient. These deficient structures represent significant impediments to the safe, economical use of the highway system and result in safety hazards, high user costs, and huge outlays for preservation and replacement. Balanced against this backlog of bridge needs is a generally inadequate level of funding by public agencies for infrastructure needs.

The collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967 was the catalyst for what became a comprehensive bridge safety inspection program mandated by the National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS). Every bridge on a public road must be inspected at least every 2 years and highway agencies across the Nation have inspection staffs and programs that collect and update critical bridge inventory and inspection data. After almost 20 years, a manifest need still exists to more effectively analyze this data, to better define bridge needs, and to find effective solutions.

The complexities and costs associated with preserving the Nation's bridge infrastructure demand innovative approaches to collection and analysis of data and prediction of current and future bridge preservation actions. These needs, coupled with the availability of modern analytical methods and high-speed computers, are leading to the development of comprehensive bridge management systems. Prior to the late 1980s, there were no existing management systems adaptable to the management of bridge programs nor was there any clear definition of key bridge management principles or objectives. Therefore, in cooperation with AASHTO, California DOT, and a specially formulated technical working group (TWG) representing several State DOTs, OTA was able to establish the following primary requirements of a comprehensive Bridge Management System (BMS):

General Procedures

  1. Identify and establish responsibility for data collection and management and for bridge decisionmaking based on a comprehensive BMS.
  2. Coordinate program and project-level decisions and coordinate bridge maintenance and improvement actions and a process of priority programming.
  3. Ensure a clear method of communicating needs and programs to outside audiences.

Functional Needs

  1. Automated database of bridge inventory, condition data, and a historical data file.
  2. Deterioration models for projecting future condition of bridge elements with or without intervening actions.
  3. Identify costs related to feasible actions, user costs associated with a deficient bridge condition, budget, and other key constraints.
  4. Develop multi-period procedures and reporting capabilities.
Efforts to define modern bridge management have led to a cooperative effort with California DOT and the TWG to develop the PONTIS BMS. With PONTIS under development, and with the added incentive of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991, six milestones were established:

  1. Publish Version 2.0 of PONTIS, the BMS jointly developed by FHWA, California DOT, and the TWG (complete); accomplish transfer of PONTIS support to the AASHTOWare software system (complete).
  2. Develop and begin formal BMS training sessions for bridge inspectors and bridge managers (sessions underway).
  3. Establish an FHWA network of BMS specialists and regional TWGs to provide BMS training and support to SHA and local agency bridge managers (underway).
  4. Implement a Commonly Recognized (CoRe) Element system to define standard bridge elements (complete); establish uniform method of converting core element condition data to NBI format (ready for adoption).
  5. Each State to implement a comprehensive BMS (underway).

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration