TRB’s Long-Term Bridge Performance Committee Assesses Progress, Priorities

AASHTO Journal, 20 April 2012

Last month, the Transportation Research Board’s Long-Term Bridge Performance Committee submitted its first letter to Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez providing an overview of its objectives and areas of focus.

The committee provides recommendations and assistance for the LTBP program, which was initiated in 2008 to address the challenges confronting government agencies in the operation and maintenance of aging and deteriorating highway bridges nationwide. The program collects data on a large representative sample of in-service highway bridges to analyze their condition and improve the understanding of the deterioration of those structures due to such factors as age, materials, traffic, and weather.

One activity that the letter specifically addresses is a draft report on the pilot phase of LTBP protocols and procedures for data collection, storage, and analysis that took place from 2009 to 2011 and applied to a set of seven bridges. Along with awaiting the report of that pilot test and how its lessons might be applied to the study of a larger set of bridges, the committee asked to see similar draft reports and encouraged a general release of all the reports.

The letter also addresses efforts to identify and prioritize bridge performance issues, including five of those topics that deal with new construction and have been proposed for initial study – untreated concrete bridge decks, bridge deck treatments, bridge deck joints, bridge bearings, and coatings for steel superstructure elements. While concurring with the selection of those topics, the committee recommends the addition of foundation scour countermeasures to that list.

The letter also states that the study of those topics should encompass bridges of all ages that will likely be in use throughout the duration of the LTBP program. “Concentrating on new construction alone would ignore the reality that many ‘old’ bridges will remain in service for extended periods of time,” the letter states.

In addition, the committee emphasizes the need for continued and even expanded outreach to keep states and other stakeholders updated on the program’s progress and seek their feedback. Finally, the committee concurs with FHWA’s request to form three expert groups – respectively dealing with bridge durability and preservation, bridge evaluation and monitoring, and bridge traffic and truck weights – to support the committee in its review of the program and the development of future recommendations.

A copy of the letter is available at

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