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70 CHAPTER FIVE Conclusions The objective of this synthesis has been to gather informa- database. Bridge-related information tracked by DOTs typi- tion on current practices that agency CEOs and senior deci- cally includes NBIS data and ratings, but often incorporates sion makers use to make network-level funding decisions additional, more detailed data or customized data. Agencies for their bridges, and how they apply their agency's bridge that were addressed in this study appear to have integrated management capabilities to support these decisions. A better their bridge management procedures and systems well understanding of these issues could help agencies identify within their individual planning, resource allocation, pro- areas of improvement for their own bridge management pro- gramming, and budgeting processes. Philosophies of bridge cess and their application to agency decision making. The management may differ across agencies (e.g., centralized study has considered the role of automated bridge manage- versus decentralized decision making; use versus nonuse of ment systems (BMSs) in planning, programming, resource predictive analytic models). Yet, in each example that was allocation, and budgeting; increasing application of asset studied in this synthesis, the agency has configured its bridge management principles, which could influence future bridge program management to fit within its organizational, finan- program management; implications of recent actions at the cial, managerial, and technical modes of operation. It has federal level that will affect bridge inspection, manage- tailored its internal communications of information and its ment, and research; impediments to applying BMSs more institutional relationships with other agencies accordingly. effectively; and research proposals to improve BMSs and practice. This variability in bridge management and resource allo- cation practices among state DOTs is driven by several fac- tors, among them the following: Synopsis Of Major Findings Different philosophies of bridge management The National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS), which Different approaches to planning, programming, and were implemented in the 1970s, established a single, unified budgeting method of collecting data on the nation's public-highway The characteristics of each agency's transportation bridges. These data are submitted annually by state DOTs system and its infrastructure to the FHWA, which compiles them within the National The policy, financial, technical, and institutional envi- Bridge Inventory (NBI) database. The NBIS have enabled ronment in which the agency operates. the FHWA and state departments of transportation (DOTs) to monitor bridge condition and performance nationally on These factors are not equal in their effects, however. For a consistent basis, identify bridge needs, define criteria of example, although the current condition of an agency's bridge project eligibility for federal bridge funding, and thereby inventory obviously affects its investment priorities, it did promote the public safety through better stewardship of not appear to be a strong driver of management approach in bridge assets. Bridge Structural Deficiency (SD) and Func- any of the states interviewed. Rather, important influencing tional Obsolescence (FO), two ratings defined by the NBIS, factors that several agencies mentioned included the level, became key performance measures that agencies continue stability, flexibility, and predictability of bridge funding; the to monitor today. Similarly, the bridge Sufficiency Rating definition of bridge performance measures appropriate to the (SR) is embodied in the eligibility formula for federal bridge agency's transportation system and geographic setting; and funding. Although some revisions to NBIS have occurred, the need to maintain effective communication and buy-in up the definition and application of these bridge ratings has and down organizational levels, regardless of where ultimate remained essentially unchanged for more than 30 years. decision-making responsibility lay. Considerable advances in U.S. bridge management have The role of bridge management in agency functions such occurred since the implementation of the NBIS, with signifi- as planning, programming, and resource allocation can cant accomplishments at the federal and state levels. Today be better understood when the characteristics of different all state DOTs have a bridge management process. Most BMSs are considered. BMSs vary in analytic capabilities and employ some type of automated BMS with an associated sophistication, ranging from straightforward repositories of

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71 bridge data to full-fledged management systems, including ment and standard types of analyses. Higher-end applica- forecasting models, comparative analyses, and optimization tions, such as those used to evaluate the costs and benefits procedures or decision rules. Full-featured systems oper- of different network investment strategies, to evaluate long- ate at both the program level and at the level of individual term as well as near-term needs, or to apply BMS outputs bridges or projects. Agencies that have a full-featured BMS in budgeting and Statewide Transportation Improvement thus have the capability to apply higher-end analyses such as Program development, are used by only a relatively small project planning, network-level budget scenarios, trade-off subset of DOTs. analyses, and economic analyses of agency and user costs and benefits. However, the actual use of these capabilities The ability to tailor bridge management practices and sys- is by no means a given. A study of Pontis implementation tem outputs to individual agency needs, and to compensate for among state DOTs indicated, for example, that half of these gaps and constraints in existing practice, helps to strengthen agencies limited the functionality of Pontis to managing the relevance of bridge-related information to agency decision bridge inspection data (see Figure 10). Moreover, the other making. Several examples illustrate this point: half that did apply more advanced Pontis functionality often used only a subset of available features. These findings were Regardless of whether their BMS is simple or sophis- reinforced in the current synthesis study. Although some ticated, many agencies have customized their own individual agencies do use virtually the full set of Pontis data and analytic procedures to reflect the particular features and might therefore be viewed at the leading edge characteristics of their road network, bridge structures, of BMS practitioners (e.g., States D and E in Table 8), more and vehicle loads, as well as their philosophy of bridge generally, the characteristic use of bridge management for management. Among agencies that were interviewed state DOT decision making is as follows: in this study, these customizations are important to ensuring that bridge management information remains BMS results used in decision making are mainly tech- relevant to agency decisions across all affected organi- nical (focusing on bridge condition and performance) zational units and levels. rather than economic (e.g., benefit-cost) or social In particular, customized performance measures such as (e.g., impacts on different categories of road users on deficiency-point calculations and custom bridge condi- affected transportation corridors). tion and health indexes in several cases were believed BMS results are for near-term rather than long-term to be critical to advancing state-specific practices tech- analysis horizons. nically, managerially, and procedurally. These indica- Recommended actions are reactive to current condi- tors were entirely acceptable to upper management and tions rather than proactive or anticipatory of future served the bridge-office as well as executive-level infor- conditions. mational needs for investment planning, resource allo- Recommended actions focus on a single strategy cation, and budgeting. Some agencies saw customized rather than a comparative analysis of several options bridge rating indexes as a way to get better guidance or scenarios. on bridge investment needs and benefits, to compensate Calculated costs are solely those attributed to the for what they believed were shortcomings in the SR as a agency rather than including the costs borne by road criterion for bridge replacement and rehabilitation. users as well. Some senior bridge managers have introduced broader Costs are calculated for near-term budgets rather than performance-based or asset management-related con- for the bridge life cycle. siderations. For example, they have asked their person- The BMS functionality that is used entails well-defined, nel to think beyond BMS outputs and consider wider basic management procedures (e.g., data management) implications of different bridge investments, such as rather than higher-level procedures such as predictive operational impacts and criticality of needs. Other models, scenario analyses, trade-off analyses, and eco- respondents mentioned political and social impacts. In nomic analyses. discussing the evaluation of project priorities, one man- ager noted that it is not sufficient to consider just the Again, these are general findings across the population of volume of traffic (average daily traffic) that is affected, state DOTs that participated in this study (refer to Figures 12 or the associated cost-benefit totals. He encouraged his and 1416). They do not necessarily reflect the characteris- staff to consider highway operations more broadly in tics and practices of any single agency. The gap that exists terms of the type of road usage (e.g., trip purposes and between the state-of-the-art practice versus the general state relationship to local economy), in addition to the stan- of practice of BMSs has persisted for more than 10 years [see dard BMS results. Neumann (1997) and subsequent studies in the first section of chapter three]. All of these studies show that the capabili- Current bridge management practices reflect several ties of BMS products are underutilized. These systems are characteristics of good asset management practice--for applied most frequently for tasks such as database manage- example, a reliance on a suite of both standard and c ustom