FHWA to begin collecting bridge condition data by the square foot

Updated May 5, 2015

Bridge with crackThe Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will begin gathering new data on bridges that will report conditions down to the square foot surface area, rather than simply the overall condition.

The “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” (MAP-21) Act requires this shift in data collection.

As opposed to the previous overall scores given to bridge deck conditions that reported how severe problems were and if they were widespread, the new system rates each square foot of the deck as well as other separate components of the bridge. Each component and square foot will receive separate ratings.

FHWA says smaller chunks of data from this effort will help engineers better understand how extensive bridge deterioration is and help them make better decisions on “repair, preservation and replacement.”

“Instead of an overall characterization of a bridge deficiency, we’ll be able to immediately hone in on the source of the problem,” FHWA Deputy Administrator Gregory Nadeau said. “This part of our ongoing commitment to improving the bridge program that has led to the overall decrease in the percentage of deficient bridges nationwide.”

Nadeau references the percentage of U.S. bridges being rated structurally deficient dropping to 10 percent last year from 13.1 percent in 2005, a reduction of almost 15,000 bridges in that time period. The number of structurally deficient bridges dropped by 2,000 from 2013 to 2014.