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58 CHAPTER FOUR Emerging Trends Overview Aftermath Of I-35w Bridge Collapse Several trends that are emerging industrywide will influence Introduction bridge management and its role in agency decision mak- ing. These trends have to do with basic advances in bridge The collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis on August management methodology and practice that result from 1, 2007, raised concerns about the condition of other bridges research--including technical research in the mechanisms nationwide. Many concerns focused on bridges that were of bridge deterioration and in nondestructive technologies of structurally deficient, as was the I-35W bridge, and set in bridge inspection--as well as broader principles of agency motion several urgent initiatives. Actions included policy decision making that are evolving through such initiatives pronouncements at the federal, state, and local levels; pro- as asset management and systemwide bridge preservation. posed new federal funding programs for the nation's bridges; Developments that followed the I-35W bridge collapse in extensive congressional testimony on a wide range of bridge- Minneapolis in August 2007 crystallized the following related topics; extensive news coverage of the I-35W failure issues relevant to bridge program funding, management, itself as well as broader coverage of the nation's structurally and budgeting: deficient bridges, funding needs, and safety concerns; and establishment of several websites to better inform the public · The need for a review of the NBIS, which was formally about bridge-related matters. The causes of the bridge col- requested by the U.S.DOT lapse and descriptions of the subsequent bridge replacement · State agency perspectives on the administration of project are beyond the scope of this study. However, several HBP funding, the need for a long-term, data-driven actions taken in the aftermath of this tragedy have important approach to bridge management, and their implications implications for future bridge management; these are dis- for executive decision making. cussed in the sections that follow. These issues were being addressed by some transporta- Review of National Bridge Inspection Standards tion agencies in an individual way up to that point, but now were elevated to national attention. Potential changes that On August 2, 2007, the day after the I-35W bridge collapse, may result in both bridge management practices and agen- U.S.DOT Secretary Mary Peters announced a "rigorous cies' high-level decision making regarding their bridge pro- assessment of the National Bridge Inspection Program" grams are relevant to this synthesis and are summarized in to be conducted by the U.S.DOT's Office of the Inspector this chapter, which is organized as follows: General (OIG). The review was billed as "top to bottom" to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. The · The first section summarizes suggestions for action Inspector General will "determine if the current federal regarding the NBIS, federal bridge program admin- program delivers the highest level of bridge safety" and, if istration and funding guidelines, and communication needed, will "make recommendations for future changes to and public awareness regarding the bridge program, the program" (U.S.DOT 2007). This U.S.DOT review was which followed the I-35W bridge collapse. reinforced by Secretary Peters in subsequent congressional · The second section provides an overview of general testimony, in which she referred to a "necessary national findings and suggestions that have resulted from sev- conversation [that] has begun concerning the state of the eral peer exchanges and program initiatives in asset Nation's bridges and highways and the financial model used management and bridge preservation. to build, maintain, and operate them." Cautioning that the · The third section compiles suggestions for further bridge collapse, as tragic as it was, did not represent "a broad research to improve bridge management practice transportation infrastructure `safety' crisis," she described that were documented in the bridge-related TRB the current and broader problem in U.S. highway transpor- Millennium Paper or were submitted as part of the sur- tation as "an increasingly flawed investment model and a vey conducted in this synthesis. system performance crisis" that required basic changes in
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59 how competing investment alternatives are analyzed and to deteriorate to a poor condition, becoming the new how existing bridge systems are managed. Secretary Peters "worst" problems. An asset management approach outlined suggested process improvements, including a systematically addresses bridges according to per- reduction in funding earmarks to promote greater reliance formance targets and appropriate preventive and cor- on proper prioritization methods, wider use of benefit-cost rective treatments. Experience has shown that this analysis, and greater use of performance-based management proactive, efficient approach can reduce the percentage techniques (Peters 2007). rated SD or FO over time. · Revise the administration of the federal HBP fund- The U.S.DOT OIG elaborated upon the background and ing to allow allocation and expenditure of bridge scope of the NBIS review in a subsequent memo (Scovel funds under an asset management approach. For 2007a): example, eliminate or relax the use of the SR and its arbitrary thresholds (less than 80 for rehabilitation, less · Suggestions to improve FHWA's oversight of struc- than 50 for replacement) used to determine eligibility turally deficient bridges had been made in an earlier for HBP funding. These thresholds have not changed OIG review in March 2006. The OIG further recom- in more than 30 years and do not encourage efficient mended at that time that FHWA "develop a risk-based, bridge preservation. An effective asset management data-driven approach and metrics to focus its oversight approach could preserve bridges more economically, efforts." and should be used to identify the eligibility of projects · The I-35W bridge collapse highlighted the importance for HBP funds more flexibly. of exercising oversight of the inspection and repair of · Eliminate the 10-year rule. This rule prevents DOTs SD bridges. An objective of the current review is there- from using HBP funds on a bridge more than once in fore to evaluate FHWA's implementation of NBIS and 10 years. An asset management-based approach would to suggest improvements that ensure that the FHWA is benefit from a more flexible timing of bridge work effectively promoting bridge safety. and could preserve bridges more economically and · The current audit will proceed in three concurrent proactively. phases with sequential reporting dates: An assessment of the corrective actions by These recommendations were reinforced and expanded FHWA responding to the March 2006 OIG reco- upon in subsequent congressional testimony (Steudle mmendations 2007b): A study of the HBP and discretionary funding pro- vided to states to correct bridge structural deficien- · Classifying a bridge as structurally deficient (as was cies, which will assess the degree to which states the I-35W bridge and about 74,000 more throughout use this funding to repair or replace SD bridges the country) does not necessarily mean it is unsafe, but effectively and efficiently it does mean that work is required. A comprehensive review of the FHWA's oversight · Additional federal bridge funding is needed, but should activities to ensure the safety of NHS bridges be combined with long-term, data-driven management nationwide. practices that give state DOTs more flexibility in their bridge maintenance programs. The U.S.DOT OIG review is ongoing as this report is sub- · Taking Michigan's asset management approach as an mitted for publication. example, bridges are inspected more frequently and more thoroughly than required by federal law. Strategic Proposed Changes in Administration of the Federal goals are set and are met with capital preventive main- Bridge Program tenance programs. This systematic approach has been far more successful in reducing the number of structur- Proposals in Congressional Testimony ally deficient bridges than Michigan's earlier use of a worst-first approach. In congressional testimony through September 2007, state · Concerns about state DOTs' transfers of available transportation agency executives outlined a number of pro- bridge funds reflect a misunderstanding of the reasons posals to revise current federal and state practices in bridge involved. Transfers of HBP apportionments to other program administration. Suggestions that relate to the scope federal programs do not imply a diminished priority for of this study included the following (Steudle 2007a): bridges, but rather a need by agencies to apply available funds more flexibly to their full range of needs. Current · Apply an asset management approach rather than rules on HBP funding eligibility are too restrictive, a worst-first approach. The current approach favors and agencies may transfer bridge dollars to other pro- a worst-first strategy (fixing bridges that are rated SD grams that allow greater flexibility. Conversely, agen- or FO), which in the meantime allows other bridges cies may apply federal funds from other, more flexible
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60 programs (as well as state funds) to meet their bridge The testimony also addressed particular policy, adminis- needs. Available data indicate that state and local agen- trative, and funding issues associated with correcting defi- cies spend more of their own funds on bridges than the cient bridge decks. The handling of these matters within the amount needed for federal match. context of SAFETEA-LU provisions was clarified shortly · Although SAFETEA-LU allows federal HBP funds to thereafter by the FHWA as described in chapter two (Lwin be used for preventive bridge maintenance so long as a 2007). state undertakes systematic bridge preservation, "that requirement has been applied inconsistently by fed- The extensive congressional testimony on bridge infra- eral officials in terms of what is required of the states" structure covered several other areas also germane to this (Steudle 2007b, p. 5). Systematic bridge preservation study: can be implemented with the help of a BMS. · A review of the characteristics and requirements of the Additional support of these positions was provided in NBIS (Gee and Henderson 2007, pp. 23; Hermann congressional testimony by others: 2007, pp. 24; Kerley 2007, pp. 1011; Washer 2007, pp. 13) · The term "structurally deficient" does not mean "that · An overview of bridge inspection procedures, mate- [a bridge] is unsafe, though it may require the post- rials, research, and technology (Anderson 2007; Gee ing of a vehicle weight restriction . . . [structural defi- and Henderson 2007, pp. 310; James 2007, pp. 19; ciency] is not a description of the safety and strength of Washer 2007, pp. 311, 1417) a bridge, [rather] it is a description created for the pur- · An explanation of how inspection data drive investment pose of allocating federal bridge funds based on need" decisions in those agencies in which bridge inspection (Kerley 2007, p. 5). information is the primary constituent of their BMSs · Classification of a bridge as structurally deficient may (Garrett 2007, pp. 28) be the result of a poor rating in only one or two of the · An overview of federal bridge funding allocation to key bridge components: deck, superstructure, and sub- states (Gee and Henderson 2007, p. 3; Kerley 2007, structure (as explained in chapter two). Moreover, not p. 11). all SD ratings are equally critical in terms of needing more intensive inspection. For example, 95% of SD in Government Accountability Office Study California is the result of deck cracking and paint prob- lems--matters to be corrected, but not serious enough The GAO released a Highway Bridge Program report (2008) to expose the bridge to imminent failure. Items such as and accompanying congressional testimony (Siggerud 2008) waterway clearance and other factors not affecting the on its review of the HBP following the I-35W bridge col- structural integrity of the bridge also may contribute to lapse. The study found that the existing HBP lacks focus an SD rating. "It may be necessary to revisit the defi- in that the purpose and scope of federal funding of bridges nition of `structurally deficient' before requiring addi- have expanded through the years, and the federal interest in tional non-routine inspections" (Kerley 2007, p. 7). expending HBP funds is not clearly defined. As a result, no · Transfers of HBP funding are done for program man- clear measures of performance guide HBP investments and agement reasons. They do not indicate a lack of ade- assess their results. Moreover, existing funding levels do not quate spending on bridges at the state level. Although provide a sustainable solution to meeting future bridge needs, transfers of HBP monies to other programs have particularly when cost inflation is factored in. GAO discussed attracted recent press attention, expenditures of other these topics primarily with regard to the federal HBP alone, federal program funds as well as state funds on bridges recognizing that other sources of funding also affect bridge have not been adequately reported. Moreover, "states work. The GAO researchers also found the following: are not credited with bridge spending when a bridge is rehabilitated as part of a larger transportation project" · Reductions in the number of structurally deficient (Kerley 2007, p. 3). Therefore, actual expenditures by bridges have occurred mostly in local and rural bridge state DOTs on bridges are often higher than would be inventories. Projects to improve the condition of larger estimated solely by tracking the disposition of federal structures on major highways and in urban areas are HBP funds. often too costly to be funded by the HBP alone, and · With respect to additional bridge funding that has must depend on funds from other sources as well. been proposed by Congress, the most pressing bridge · Comprehensive data are lacking on the total fund- needs should be identified through a review of existing ing that is allocated to bridge programs, encompass- bridge data. Furthermore, regardless of how the funds ing state and local dollars as well as HBP funding. It are proposed to be distributed, flexibility is needed so is therefore difficult to track the respective uses and that this funding is used in the most effective, efficient benefits of these different bridge funding sources, the way (Kerley 2007, p. 8). degree to which funds are transferred between bridge
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61 rehabilitation or replacement and other transportation · Definitions. The legislation explicitly defines key programs, and what substitutions occur among federal, terms relating to federal bridge program management, state, and local funds in the bridge program. including structurally deficient, functionally obsolete, · Lacking clear policy goals and performance measures, rehabilitation, and replacement. It defines "complex federal and state agencies are unable to determine the bridges" as highway bridges with "unusual character- overall effectiveness of HBP investments in bridges istics, including movable, suspension, and cable-stayed nationwide. highway bridges." It calls upon the U.S. secretary of transportation to issue regulations that define "critical The GAO noted that several steps could improve HBP finding" in the context of provisions discussed here. administration and use of funds: · Risk-Based Approach. The secretary of transporta- tion, in consultation with state DOTs, shall assign a · Wider use of BMSs could provide a greater degree of risk-based priority for the rehabilitation or replace- systematic decision support in project prioritization ment of bridges that are rated structurally deficient or and resource allocation. functionally obsolete. The secretary shall work with · Linking bridge program goals to performance measures the states to establish a process for assessing these risk- would enable managers to determine whether goals are based priorities. The costs of rehabilitating or replacing being met, and to apply that information when select- each bridge shall likewise be determined. The secre- ing projects and reaching funding decisions. These tary shall submit a report to Congress on the risk-based capabilities would provide state and local governments approach that has been developed. with incentives to improve the performance of their · Independent Review. The National Academy of bridge programs as well as of the overall transporta- Sciences shall conduct an independent review of the tion system. risk-based process described in the preceding bulleted · Aging bridge infrastructure, the impending revenue item. The academy shall submit a report to the secre- shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, and continuing tary of the U.S.DOT and Congress. increases in the costs of bridge projects all point to the · Performance Plan. States shall develop, implement, importance of ensuring the financial sustainability of and update annually a 5-year performance plan for the HBP. bridge inspections and the rehabilitation or replace- ment of SD or FO bridges. Separate provisions may The GAO recommended that the U.S.DOT secretary work apply to historic bridges. The secretary of transporta- with the Congress to achieve the following: tion will establish criteria for the approval of perfor- mance plans and annual updates, and will then conduct · Identify and define the specific national goals of the such approvals annually. If a plan is disapproved, the HBP. secretary will inform the state of the reasons and · Determine the performance of the program through require resubmittal. performance measures related to HBP goals. · Bridge Management System. Each state shall develop · Identify and evaluate best-practice methods and tools and implement a BMS. that can be incorporated within the HBP, such as · National Bridge Inspection Program. The NBIS BMSs. shall be designed "to ensure uniformity among the · Review and evaluate HBP funding mechanisms to align states" in conducting bridge inspections and evalu- funding and performance, and to support a focused, ations. The NBIS shall "establish procedures for sustainable federal bridge program. conducting annual compliance reviews of state inspec- tions, quality control and quality assurance procedures, Federal Surface Transportation Legislation load ratings, and weight limit postings of structurally deficient bridges." They shall establish procedures for As a prelude to the 2009 reauthorization of federal surface states to report to the secretary of transportation (1) transportation legislation, congressional bills to enact new critical findings regarding bridge structural or safety policies and requirements of the federal HBP have been filed deficiencies, and (2) monitoring and corrective actions in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 3999) and the to address these findings. They shall provide for test- Senate (S. 3338). Each of these companion bills bears the ing with state-of-the-art technology to detect fatigue short title, "National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and cracking on steel bridges that exhibit fatigue damage Inspection Act of 2008" (Library of Congress, 110th Con- or that have fatigue-susceptible members. gress). Although the provisions of these bills are subject to · Regulations on Critical Findings. The secretary of further debate, they signal several topics of current congres- transportation shall issue regulations by which states sional interest that relate to this synthesis. Key provisions of will report to the secretary critical findings of bridge the proposed legislation as now drafted are as follows: deficiencies and resulting monitoring and remedial
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62 actions. The regulations will define "critical finding," delays of bridge rehabilitation, and (2) any recom- establish due dates for states' reports, describe require- mendations to simplify and expedite bridge rehabili- ments for actions following a critical finding determi- tation. The comptroller general shall conduct a study nation, and provide for training of bridge inspectors of the effectiveness of FHWA's bridge rating system, regarding critical findings. Within 15 days of a critical including the use of the terms "structurally deficient" finding that results in a bridge closure, the secretary and "functionally obsolete" to describe the condition of transportation shall report to the appropriate con- of U.S. highway bridges. The comptroller general gressional committees on the impacts of the closure, shall also evaluate rating systems used by state DOTs including economic impacts and effects on regional and recommend how successful state methods can be transportation and transit. The report will also identify incorporated within the FHWA's rating system. solutions to mitigate these impacts. · Other Provisions. Several other bridge-related provi- · Inspectors' Training and Qualifications. The secre- sions of the draft legislation relate to research studies tary shall expand the bridge inspection training pro- and a pilot program for advanced condition assessment gram to ensure that all persons inspecting highway technology that can be applied to bridge inspections. A bridges receive appropriate training and certifica- "Sense of Congress" section recommends that states tion. Program managers of state inspection programs prepare a corrosion prevention and mitigation plan for shall be licensed professional engineers. Team leaders each project in bridge construction, rehabilitation, or engaged in inspecting complex bridges or bridges that replacement. Research-related provisions are discussed have generated a critical finding must be licensed pro- further in the section on Research Needs. fessional engineers. Team leaders inspecting all other bridges must either be licensed professional engineers Public Awareness and Understanding of Bridge Issues or have at least 10 years of bridge inspection experi- ence. (A grandfather provision imposes these require- That the I-35W bridge had been rated structurally deficient ments only on program managers and team leaders focused considerable news attention on NBI ratings and who are appointed after these revised regulations have reflected concern about a possible link between SD and been issued.) potential failure. Public and political response grew with the · State Participation Requirements. To be eligible for realization that tens of thousands of other bridges nation- federal funding of bridge rehabilitation and replace- wide were likewise rated SD. Articles quoted knowledgeable ment, states must take several actions, including experts explaining the meaning of "structural deficiency" as inspections of bridges and calculations of bridge load a programmatic rather than a safety distinction--a designa- ratings at appropriate intervals according to criteria tion that does not signal an imminent collapse (e.g., Heath that are specified in this legislation; development of a 2007; Riccardi and Therolf 2007). The rapid response by 5-year performance plan for bridge inspections and for states to reinspect their own structurally deficient bridges rehabilitation or replacement of structurally deficient and to take quick remedial action where needed was also or functionally obsolete bridges, with special consider- reported (Keen 2007). Some political leaders, however, ations for historic bridges; and development and imple- wanted greater clarity regarding bridge safety. One Califor- mentation of a BMS. nia state senator summarized his frustration as follows: · Funding Transfers. States may transfer HBP funds I want to know what is safe and what is not and how we to other federal aid programs "only if the state dem- measure it and how we inspect it. onstrates to the satisfaction of the Secretary that there are not any bridges on the National Highway System [Proposed hearings] will focus on how California inspects located in the State that are eligible for replacement." bridges, why so many are classified as "structurally deficient," and how to come up with money to upgrade · Reports to Congress. The U.S. secretary of transpor- aging spans (Bizjak 2007). tation shall report annually to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, on Other experts also voiced concern about the ambiguity of projects and activities performed under these provi- the designation "structurally deficient." A faculty member sions, information such as priorities for bridge rehabili- in bridge engineering asked why SD is not defined "the way tation and replacement on a national and state-by-state most people see it. Why take so much pain explaining to basis for SD and FO bridges, identification of projects people why it doesn't mean what it seems?" (Bizjak 2007). or actions by states that are inconsistent with these pri- orities, and suggestions for improvement of the HBP. More wide-ranging communication of the status of the · GAO Studies. Within 1 year after this bill has been nation's bridges has begun with the establishment or expan- enacted, the comptroller general shall conduct a study sion of informational websites and documents on bridge and report findings to the secretary of transportation infrastructure by the following transportation or engineer- regarding (1) factors that contribute to construction ing organizations: