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Recommendations for Bridge and Tunnel Security

Section 4 Policy Foundations And Institutional Continuity

4.1 Foundations for Policy and Planning

Potential choices for dealing with risks associated with bridges and tunnels, in general terms, include the following:

  • Acceptance (no action)
  • Mitigation (retrofit, operational changes, add redundant facilities)
  • Transfer (insurance, self-insurance, or other financial instruments)

The criteria for making choices related to these facilities will be applied at the national, regional, or local level. Owners of facilities are using existing technology and information to enhance the security of critical assets by diverting program funds away from maintenance and construction until federal funds are available specifically for security. The goal of policy is to develop and encourage the use of consistent prioritization and risk assessment methods leading to actions that will enhance bridge and tunnel security.


In the near-term, the primary basis for prioritization and risk assessment is the National Bridge Inventory System (NBIS) maintained by FHWA. NBIS contains data about bridges (no tunnel data), including location, structure type, span characteristics, average daily traffic volume, military significance, and other use-related information. This data can help inform the decision process for selecting high priority bridges for near-term security countermeasures.

Near-term (3-6 months):
  1. FHWA should engage AASHTO, through its standing committee structure, informed by current information such as studies, reports, and briefings, to review and comment on proposed funding programs to improve bridge/tunnel security against terrorist attacks. This activity should be supported through AASHTO, NCHRP, FHWA, or other national funding sources to offset travel and other meeting expenses.
  2. FHWA should summarize the current status of critical bridges and tunnels identified through previous studies.
Mid-term (6-12 months):
  1. FHWA should collaborate with the TSA and other stakeholders to develop a bridge and tunnel prioritization process based on the methodology outlined in Section 5.
  2. FHWA should develop guidelines for applying the prioritization approach, including illustrative examples and technical assistance.
  3. FHWA should issue a FHWA Technical Advisory on how to implement available and applicable technology and procedures to enhance bridge and tunnel security, including potential funding sources, technical contacts, streamlined procurement, and other information.
Long-term (12-18 months):
  1. FHWA should encourage application (via solicitation/response cycle) and refinement of processes through a centralized "clearinghouse" where results are used to improve processes.

4.2 Institutional Continuity

Continuity is necessary to ensure implementation and periodic evaluation by a recognized, credible, representative, and relevant national organization empowered to deal with Security Sensitive Information (SSI) and promulgate policies and specifications. A forum for information exchange among entities responsible for surface transportation security would help to provide this continuity.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is developing risk assessment methodologies and countermeasures for all transportation modes. The BRP encourages TSA to leverage FHWA and state DOT and facility owner/operator experience in vulnerability assessment and security measures so that TSA methodologies reflect the needs of DOTs and facility owner/operators as well as the homeland security needs of the nation.


The panel recognizes that policy guidance for transportation security will be formulated as a collaborative effort among TSA, FHWA, AASHTO, and other highway transportation stakeholders. The panel recognizes that AASHTO is the most appropriate organization for implementing security policy within the highway bridge and tunnel community.

Near-term (3-6 months):
  1. Recognizing the importance of both operational and engineered solutions and the expertise that exists within the owner/operator community, FHWA, AASHTO, TSA, and other highway transportation stakeholders should collaborate to ensure that assessment methodologies and security solutions meet stakeholder needs.
  2. It is assumed that TSA will promulgate top-level performance-based design guidance. Detailed implementation strategies should be developed by FHWA, AASHTO, and other sources of technical expertise.
  3. With respect to highway bridges and tunnels, an AASHTO entity is the most appropriate organization to address security issues.[19]
  4. Recognizing that many facilities have dual use, and working with TSA, a dialogue should be established between the AASHTO Technical Committee and similar entities representing rail organizations (AAR) and transit providers (APTA) responsible for similar structures and operations.

[19] At its first meeting, the BRP recommended that the AASHTO Standing Committee on Bridges and Structures (SCOBS) form a new permanent Technical Committee on Bridge and Tunnel Security. This recommendation was acted upon immediately. Technical Committee T-1 was to have its first meeting at the June 2003 SCOBS meeting. The panel encourages the AASHTO SCOBS to engage other bridge and tunnel stakeholders in its activities.

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Updated: 06/25/2013
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