A Bridge Preservation Guide published this spring by the Federal Highway Administration outlines the importance of bridge preservation programs and other solutions as part of an overall necessity to address the nationwide infrastructure challenges in the US.
According to 2017 bridge data collected and released by the FHWA, of the nation’s 612,677 bridges, more than 54,000 of these are rated “structurally deficient,” while more than one-third of all bridges in the U.S. have demonstrated repair needs. As a result, bridge repair and rehabilitation remain among the top priorities for transportation departments throughout the U.S.
The FHWA notes that limited funding for infrastructure makes it necessary for federal, state and local governments to implement cost-effective methods and programs that seek to extend the safe service life of bridges through a variety of preservation and rehabilitation programs. These programs include a combination of solutions, including developing and implementing routine maintenance for various bridge components, both surface and structural. Bridge preservation programs also involve assessing and monitoring the structural health and integrity of existing structures, including mandatory inspections and methods of damage detection.
There are various ways that innovative monitoring systems, including continuous, wireless and remote systems, are being used in structural health monitoring (SHM) programs for bridges and other structures. The FHWA notes that technical innovations and advancements in monitoring equipment and data gathering can be incorporated into various phases involving bridge construction or repair. Some of these areas include early detection of structural defects and ongoing monitoring and data collection related to the study of traffic or environmental impact. Monitoring systems can also be implemented for design and pre-construction activities, as well as new bridge construction. These innovations can be included in both the design and construction phases of both bridges and sub-structures.
As the average age of bridges in the U.S. continues to climb, and as more bridges each year approach the end of their design or service life, it’s imperative for government and transportation officials at all levels to look to innovative, new technologies for early detection, assessment, monitoring, and collecting data, as part of an overall plan to restore the infrastructure.
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