Articles

Bridge Preservation


♫ music ♫ Of the more than 600,000 bridges in the U.S.
40 percent are 50 years or older. [Truck passing] State departments of transportation, local
agencies, and other bridge owners are facing significant challenges in addressing the needs
of their aging infrastructure. Scott Neubauer: “We’re getting a large
number of bridges that are at the point where they either need some maintenance or replacement
and with limited funds we can’t just replace everything when we need to necessarily so preservation helps us maintain those structures for a little bit longer life and lets us use our limited funds maybe more efficiently than we could otherwise.” Bridge preservation prevents, delays, or reduces
deterioration of bridges, restores function, keeps bridges in good or fair condition, and
extends bridge service life. Ping Lu: “We have
to do something when the bridge condition is still in good or fair condition rather
than letting it deteriorate into poor condition then we have to do a major rehab or replacement. We have to do the cost-effective thing at
the right time at the right place.” Preservation is not simply short-term fixes
to bridges in poor condition. Preservation, done properly, is a planned,
cost-effective program to avert poor condition. Bridge preservation is eligible for Federal
funding however, routine maintenance is not. Routine maintenance is work that is performed
in reaction to an event or season such as trash, snow, graffiti, and dead animal removal. Raj Ailaney: “Our goal is to increase the
longevity of our infrastructure. Preservation activities, whether they are
cyclic or condition-based, both help in extending the life of a structure.” ♫ music ♫ All bridges are candidates for preservation. A bridge in good condition is a candidate
for cyclic preservation activity; fair condition bridges may need both cyclic and condition-based
activities; and poor condition bridges, if it makes economic sense, may also be a candidate
for condition-based preservation activity or rehabilitation. Cyclical activities include cleaning the bridge
and its joints, flushing drains, and sealing the deck, rails, cracks, and concrete. Condition-based maintenance activities are
performed on bridge components in response to known defects. There is a long list of activities. What is considered most effective varies from
state to state. In Florida, it is common to install cathodic
jackets to pilings. Marco Bustamonte: “You chip all the bad
concrete off of the pilings. Install the jacket the way it is to this point. Verify that the steel inside the piling is
electrically continuous to itself and it has to be for the system to work. Then we verify that the external jacket that
was installed is electrically continuous. From this point is where we are now where
I check that all the wiring to make sure that it’s not shorted.” Engineers say cathodic protection prolongs
the life of the repair at least ten years by introducing a small amount of electrical
current to the steel. “The corrosion won’t get any better but
it won’t get any worse. It will not corrode anymore.” Every State takes a different approach. Danny Tullier: “Bridge preservation in Louisiana
entails looking at bridges from a preventive maintenance stand point to see how we can extend the service life of the bridges.” Louisiana began dedicating money to the program in 2006 with $3 million annually. Since then, the program has grown to an average of $8 to 9 million a year. [Vehicles passing] “So, we do that by looking at different types of repair that we can do on our bridges that we’ve determined to be preventive maintenance
and those things are concrete spall repair, painting, deck joint replacements, relief
joint replacements, and deck overlays.” Iowa has a similar size program. “We’ll do more deck patching, joint replacement, some approach pavement repair work, that type of thing that’s harder to get done with our
normal program funds. There are things that happen fairly quickly
and you need to react to them and this money helps us react to things a lot faster when
we need to or do some of the deck washings and things that we’d like to do that we
can’t otherwise do.” ♫ music ♫ Bridge preservation isn’t just a focus for
many States. Local agencies are also making it a priority. St. Claire County, Michigan, started with a
two-man crew and a foreman in 2016. DeWayne Rogers: “It was kind of a trial run
for me for our first year. Then our managing director liked what we were
doing and wanted to take it to another level, so we added two more guys to our crew.” The road commission even purchased an old
military vehicle and retrofitted it to transport the team and its equipment. The five-member crew refurbishes 10 to 15
bridges a year using a budget of $350,000. “You just start small, you find bridges that might be 20 years old or 10 years old and depending on what kind of surface concrete or asphalt, you
kind of, once you go through your inspection process you start seeing this deck has a few cracks in it, this would be a good candidate to do a water proofing on.” While not all bridge preservation activities
can be done in house, Rogers says using county employees for some activities rather than
contractors can allow for better control of the budget and the schedule. To do work in-house on Federal-aid projects,
the work must first be found to be more cost effective than competitive bidding. Bill Hazelton: “Our boss said ‘Get good at
something,’ he said, and ‘get good at it and just keep on doing it over and over again.’ So we’re getting good at say four or five
techniques and we’ll just keep repeating it and watch the results.” The St. Clair County Road Commission asked
current employees to volunteer for the bridge preservation team. They then used internal resources to train
them. “Ask your crews if they want to do this
work. Most of them will try it. Do they want to fill a pot hole every day? No. But they wouldn’t mind painting a bridge
deck or fixing something else that they can see or point to that when they’re driving home
and say and show to their kids, ‘I did that.'” ♫ music ♫ Allocating funds and dedicating personnel
are just two steps to creating a successful bridge preservation program. “I would think one of the things that a State should do is always look at what your surrounding States are doing. They usually have similar issues, similar
weather patterns and traffic issues that you have that you can gain a lot of information
from what they’re doing.” “Secondly, they would need to contact their local division office of FHWA to see what criteria that would be helpful in establishing a program. Lastly, I would get involved with an organization
called Bridge Preservation Partnership and you can find information about that partnership on the website; it’s called tsp2.org” The Federal Highway Administration has also
created this bridge preservation guide. The guide defines preservation terms and identifies
commonly practiced bridge preservation activities. It also provides guidance on establishing
or improving an existing bridge preservation program as part of an asset management program. “If you look at the bridge condition trends
for NHS bridges per NBI; since 1995, as our inventory ages, the population of bridges
in fair condition are increasing. Bridge preservation is the only way, we can
slow this increasing trend.” For more information, refer to the Bridge
Preservation Guide found online at this web address. ♫ music ♫

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