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Federal Highway Administration
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Bridges & Structures

Guidelines for the Installation, Inspection, Maintenance and Repair of Structural Supports for Highway Signs, Luminaries, and Traffic Signals

12.0 The Inspection Procedure

With a developed inventory and strategy for inspection, the actual inspection procedures can then be reviewed and implemented.

12.1 Pre-Inspection Review of Available Materials (Desk Review)

The pre-inspection review of information, otherwise referred to as a desk review, should be conducted prior to any ancillary structure inspections. All historical records should be located and reviewed such as as-built design drawings, prior inspection reports, shop fabrication drawings, and previous notes on traffic control. If not already developed a structure folder should be developed containing these items.

12.2 Inspection Nomenclature

Like any structural inspection, orientation and proper nomenclature are important. Nomenclature as to overall structure orientation usually is related to the direction of roadway travel, though details vary from state to state. As an example, Figure 24 shows New York State's nomenclature for the orientation of overhead sign structures. The following sections provide typical nomenclature for ancillary structures.

12.2.1 Sign Bridge

A structure supporting sign panels or other devices such as variable message signs that span over the traveled way with supports on both sides of the roadway. May also be referred to as a Span Structure. Detailed nomenclature for the various parts is given in Section 12.2.6.

12.2.2 Cantilever Sign Structure

A structure that extends over traffic and has a support on only one side of the roadway. The specific components are very similar to those of a sign bridge as given in Section 12.2.6.

12.2.3 Mast Arm Structure

A structure that cantilevers over traffic with a single mast arm. This is different than a cantilever sign structure that may have a truss or dual arm as the cantilever support for signs or other attachments. A mast arm usually supports small signs or traffic signals. The primary components are the foundation, base plate, anchor rods, pole to base plate connection, pole, mast arm to pole connection, and mast arm.

12.2.4 Signal Supports

A structure, usually a mast arm type, which supports traffic signals. The primary components are the foundation, base plate, anchor rods, pole to base plate connection, pole, mast arm to pole connection, and mast arm.

12.2.5 Light Poles

A structure supporting lighting, such as a high mast lighting tower. The primary components are the foundation, base plate, anchor rods, pole to base plate connection, pole, and luminaire. High mast poles also have a luminaire raising device and generally a slip joint (or more) in the post.

12.2.6 Detailed Nomenclature

The nomenclature for the various components of overhead sign structures is given below and shown in Figures 20, 21, and 22. The base components for the sign truss are similar to those of other ancillary structures.

  • Truss - superstructure that is composed of truss members. These can be tubular or angular.
  • Chords - The main horizontal members of the truss.
  • Diagonals - The diagonal members of the truss.
  • Splice - Usually referred to as the connection between the truss chords. May also occur in long mast arms and high poles.
  • Catwalk - The walkway used by maintenance personnel, usually located in front of the sign.
  • Foundation - The portion of the sign structure that directs the load into the ground. Usually constructed of concrete pedestal on pile, spread or caisson foundations.
  • Anchor Rod - The rods that connect the sign structure base to the foundation.
  • Base Plate - The plate used to connect the post base to the foundation.
  • Post or Tower - The vertical supporting members of a sign structure.
  • Truss Seat - The member that supports the vertical load of the truss.
  • Handhole - An opening in the sign structure post for access. Usually located 3' above the base plate.
  • U-bolts - Bolts shaped like the letter 'U' used to attach sign framing brackets to the sign truss.
  • Saddles - Bearings that support the chords of truss structures.
  • Shim Plates - Metal plates used to account for elevation differences in tower to truss supports.
  • Sign Panels - Sign Panels are usually attached to the structure via a Vertical Support Angle (Figure 23). The vertical angle is connected to Horizontal Support Angles. Finally the panel itself is connected to the angle with Sign Clips. Sign panels can be made as one continuous unit or partial units joined together with Backing Strip connections.

Sign Panel Support Components
Figure 23. Sign Panel Support Components.

12.2.7 Orientation of Members

Members for the sign truss usually follow truss nomenclature. That is, panel points are labeled across the truss and members are labeled according to their beginning and ending panel points. Panel points are labeled left to right as viewed from the front. Chords and Towers are labeled as 'Front', 'Back', 'Upper Front', 'Lower Front', 'Upper Back', and 'Lower Back'. Instead of compass directions signs are normally labeled 'Near Side' and 'Far Side' based on the direction of travel.

Schematic showing the orientation of overhead sign structures from the New York State Department of Transportation
Figure 24. Orientation of Overhead Sign Structures- New York State Department of Transportation.

12.3 Sequence of Inspection

The inspection of ancillary structures requires a 'hands on' approach. To check for structural deficiencies it is necessary for the inspector to access all critical locations, often by climbing. The inspector wears a safety harness with two lanyards so that he/she is tied off to the structure at all times. The inspector carries many tools such as electronic and tape measuring devices, wrenches to tighten loose hardware, marking tools and mirrors to see the underside of welds. Nondestructive testing (NDT) equipment may or may not be required. Figure 25 shows a visual inspection of a chord splice connection for an overhead sign truss.

For structures such as signal supports it is usually possible to conduct the inspection from a bucket truck with minimal traffic disruption. High mast lights may require specialized techniques, which are discussed in Section 12.3.3.

Inspector on overhead sign
Figure 25. Hands on Inspection of Overhead Signs.

12.3.1 Sign Structures

A typical hands on inspection of a sign structure starts at the foundation and works skyward. The foundation, typically made of concrete, is checked for cracks, spalls and other signs of deterioration. Many times drainage pathways in the foundation become blocked with debris not allowing water to escape from the inside of the post. Many structures have grout pads to support the post base. These are often susceptible to deterioration. It is important to check historical documents to see if grout pads were part of the original design. If they were not, many times existing deteriorated pads can be removed.

Post to foundation connections usually consist of anchor rods that transfer the load from the structure post to the foundation. Anchor rods can become corroded over time and fail under fatigue loading. Many anchor rods initially installed might have been too short or too long. If too short, a coupler may have been used that cannot transfer the load. Many long rods are cut or flame torched which may change the mechanical properties of the rod. By 'sounding' the anchor rods with a hammer, an inspector can check both the rod and the surrounding foundation.

Anchor rod nuts should be checked for tightness and general condition. Loose leveling nuts as well as top nuts can lead to load redistribution and overstressing of anchor rods. Nuts should be hammer sounded or checked using a large wrench.

The base plates that the anchor rods go through and support the post base should be checked. Many base plates are found to be broken or warped. Inadequate drainage has also led to advanced corrosion.

The post to base plate weld should be examined for any cracking. Cracking may also be found at the termination of stiffener plates. Close inspection may be required to locate any cracks. All cracks found during the inspection should have their beginning and end points marked on the structure along with the date of inspection using a paint stick.

An important aspect in the inspection of the support posts are the handholes. The handholes themselves, cut into the post, can prove to be areas of weld crack initiation. Handholes allow access for inspectors to see the inside of the post. Much noted corrosion of sign structure posts has occurred inside the post as water and debris accumulate to form a corrosive environment. A quick look inside a handhole, usually located 1 meter (3 feet) above the base, can provide instant feedback on potential corrosion. If there are no handholes a thickness meter (D-meter) should be used to check critical areas for reduced section area. Additional problems with handholes are missing covers or those that cannot be removed due to frozen screws.

The Post/Tower inspection includes identification of proper ventilation to remove any buildup of condensation and a general rating of the tower condition. Posts are frequently found with missing top caps that keep rain out. Many steel posts are galvanized and over time some of the coating begins to wear. Another consideration is plumbness of the post, which could reveal foundation problems, past vehicular impacts or initial erection errors. Especially for out of plumb posts, the vertical clearance of the sign over the traveled way should be checked.

The Post/Tower to truss connections should be checked for missing fasteners or misalignment. Span or bridge structures often have saddles and U-bolts at the truss to post connections. These should be examined for missing or loose nuts and cracked castings. Cantilever trusses are generally connected with high strength bolted flange connections. These should be examined for fit-up and loose or missing bolts.

Once the Post/Tower is inspected the process moves to the horizontal truss or mast arm. Many truss members have welded connections that need to be checked. Failed welds in aluminum structures have been a major source of concern. It is very hard to access these welds and may involve the use of climbing the truss, an aerial lift device such as a bucket truck, and special tools such as mirrors. However, all areas must receive an arm's length inspection if cracks are to be found.

Sign trusses are usually fabricated into smaller sections and erected at the site. The truss chord connection is the critical connection between these sections. A flanged splice connection may contain both bolted and welded connections. Since chords are critical truss members their connections are critical as well. Connection fit-up, loose and missing bolts, and weld cracks should be areas of concentration during the inspection.

Sign Panels should be inspected while the truss is undergoing an inspection. Many sign panel fasteners become loose over time. Inspectors are routinely asked to hand tighten these fasteners to avoid another lane closure for such a small maintenance item. A large problem in many states is the use of larger sign text fonts, which result in larger sign panels. This can be dangerous if the original structural designer did not account for such changes. Larger sign panels will result in more wind loading on the structure. An inspector should also be aware of anything mounted on a sign structure that could increase the wind load. The area of sign panels and other attachments should be noted so they can be compared to original design conditions.

After the aerial inspection of all structural members is complete the inspection should proceed to any supplemental elements such as walkways, also referred to as catwalks, electrical components, and other elements that do not comprise the actual structural system.

12.3.2 Mast Arm Structures and Signal Supports

The inspection of mast arm structures and signal supports proceeds generally the same as for a sign structure, working from the base on up, see Figure 26. For many of the mast arm and signal supports, the anchor rod nuts are covered by a cap. These must be removed to examine the top nuts, even if removal results in damage. Damaged caps should be reported for future replacement, or the inspection team may be supplied with spares for installation.

Inspection of a Mast Arm Structure
Figure 26. Inspection of a Mast Arm Structure.

If hand hole covers cannot be removed to check for internal corrosion, an ultrasonic thickness gauge should be employed to check the pole thickness and possible internal corrosion.

The mast arm to pole connection should be carefully examined. A wide variety of post to arm connections are used. Loose and missing bolts, misaligned fasteners, and weld cracks are often found (Figure 27). Mast arm to post connections where the post connection consists simply of two side plates welded to the pole with a face plate that accepts the bolted arm connection have been found especially susceptible to cracks at the plate to post welds.

Post to Arm Connection Showing Poor Fit-Up Due to Use of Incorrect Components
Figure 27. Post to Arm Connection Showing Poor Fit-Up Due to Use of Incorrect Components.

Any splices in the mast arm should be inspected, and the inspection may include the signal to mast arm connection and any signs or panel connections to the arm. Where these areas are to be inspected, traffic control is normally required to allow access from a bucket truck.

12.3.3 Light Poles and High Mast Lights

Inspection of luminaire supports, including high mast lights, generally proceeds from the ground up as for sign and other structures. Access for inspection can generally be gained by use of bucket trucks. However, for high mast lights sufficiently long booms to reach all parts may not be available and it is often impractical to access the location of the light pole with these very large bucket vehicles. Alternative means of inspection "access" are discussed later in this section.

For luminaire supports of modest height, say under 40 feet, anchor bolt inspection may require removal of bolt covers. Because these poles may oscillate however slightly in even modest winds, it is recommended that anchor bolt nuts be checked at both the beginning and end of the inspection. Leveling nuts should also be checked if accessible. Figure 28 shows loose leveling nuts on a high mast structure.

Loose Leveling Nuts on a High Mast Structure
Figure 28. Loose Leveling Nuts on a High Mast Structure.
(Note: Top Nuts on Chairs Out of Photo)

Hand hole or other access covers near the base of the pole should be removed and the interior examined for moisture and corrosion. High mast lights usually have the apparatus for lowering the luminaire ring located inside the base of the pole. Checking the operation of this system is not normally part of the structure inspection. However, the apparatus is normally supported by steel members connected to the inside of the pole and these should be examined for loose connections and weld cracks and defects as these can migrate into the pole.

High poles may consist of more than one section. These are "spliced" by use of a slip joint, as shown in Figure 29, in which the upper segment simply slips over the lower segment. The condition of this joint should be examined for cracks, deformation along the base of the connection, and rust stains. Slip joints, partly because of the tendency of water to be drawn into them by capillary action, sometimes experience corrosion between the two segments. This can lead to the build up of pack rust, particularly in weathering steel poles, that may lead to a vertical crack emanating from the bottom of the upper pole segment.

High Mast Pole Slip Joint
Figure 29. High Mast Pole Slip Joint.

Inspection of the luminaire ring is not usually part of the structural inspection. However, visual observation of any defects should be recorded for future inspection by appropriate personnel. Some defects noted in the luminaire ring may relate to mechanical or structural components and should be examined further. Figure 30 shows a misaligned luminaire ring which was found to be the result of a broken support cable.

Misaligned Luminaire Ring
Figure 30. Misaligned Luminaire Ring.

Due to the difficulty of accessing pole splices and luminaire rings, particularly in the high poles that are now common, inspection techniques other than arms length inspection are normally used for these areas. Inspection is normally visual and is made using a pair of binoculars of at least ten power magnification or a telescope such as a shooter's spotting telescope. Telescopes offer higher magnification, with the ability to identify smaller cracks. Several efforts have also been made to develop a remotely operated inspection device that can climb the pole while carrying a video camera and possibly other inspection equipment. Figure 31 shows one such device, developed by the Virginia Transportation Research Council. At present, these devices are difficult to maneuver and position and require increased inspection time. With continued development; however, they may become a tool for routine inspections, particularly of slip joints.

Remotely Operated Inspection Device
Figure 31. Remotely Operated Inspection Device.

12.4 Non Destructive Testing

Non Destructive Testing (NDT) is an important tool used for the inspection of ancillary structures. While visual inspection is the primary inspection method, it cannot detect all structural deficiencies. Examples include small fatigue cracks in welds, corrosion occurring on the interior of the structural element, and cracked anchor rods. A list of NDT Methods and their application to ancillary structures is given below.

  • Ultrasonic thickness 'D meter' measurements - Probably the most critical NDT for ancillary structures since failures have been attributed to interior element corrosion that cannot be visually detected (Figure 32). A simple ultrasonic thickness gauge can also be used to check anchor rod lengths and for possible fractures. More sophisticated ultrasonic flaw detection equipment can be used to examine anchor rods for possible cracks or other flaws. A test procedure for anchor rods is contained in Appendix B (Figure 33).

  • Dye Penetrant Test - Excellent test for exposed welds in non-ferrous materials such as aluminum, as well as steel structures. It is usually used to confirm visual observation of a crack. Dye penetrant can help distinguish between cracks and surface defects such as galvanizing flaws which are crack like in appearance. Dye penetrant can only detect surface cracks.

  • Magnetic Particle Test - Excellent test of exposed welds in metallic materials such as steel, Figure 34. This technique can reveal "near surface" cracks as well as surface cracks.

  • Eddy Current Test - Used for painted sign structures or aluminum structures to detect weld cracks where magnetic particle testing does not function due to lack of magnetic attraction.

It is important that the person conducting the test, as well as the personnel interpreting the test data, be properly trained in the applied method. Additional qualifications should include both an understanding of the theory behind the test and practical experience. All inspection methods should be conducted in accordance with applicable American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) procedures, American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards, and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) specifications.

Nationally recognized certifications in NDT are provided through ASNT. Since many of the tests performed on ancillary structures are fairly standard and specific in nature, certifications in these particular tests may by an acceptable alternative to full ASNT certification for those engaged in ancillary structure inspection.

Thickness Measurement at Critical Location of Structure Post
Figure 32. Thickness Measurement at Critical Location of Structure Post.

Ultrasonic Testing of Anchor Rods
Figure 33. Ultrasonic Testing of Anchor Rods.

Magnetic Particle Inspection of Weld at Post to Base Plate Connection
Figure 34. Magnetic Particle Inspection of Weld at Post to Base Plate Connection.

12.5 Quality Control Plan

Every ancillary structure inspection program should include a Quality Control Plan. The plan should address consistency in the inspection process and repair recommendations. The plan should address personnel qualifications as discussed earlier in these guidelines. It is important to remember that ancillary structures are a 'different animal' unlike bridges and need to be viewed from that perspective.

13.0 Element Inspection

Inspection findings are reported in a variety of ways. In keeping with bridge inspection methodology a number is normally assigned to structures or their components that represent their condition. In order to provide consistency with current bridge inspection reporting, an element based inspection reporting system is recommended.

13.1 Element Definitions

Each owner should develop an inspection reporting system consistent with their particular needs and asset management procedures. Various element level reporting formats including PONTIS based systems have been utilized, as illustrated by the examples in Appendices B and C. The PONTIS based systems, as presented in Section 14, provide for quantifying both elements and the extent of defects. However, they typically do not include nonstructural information on "elements" such as vertical clearance or adjacent guard rails that may be of interest and not readily available elsewhere.

The eighteen (18) elements shown in Table 9 are recommended for use in rating Highway Signs, Luminaries, and Traffic Signals where a PONTIS based system is not utilized. Note that all elements may not be applicable to a specific structure type.

Table 9 Element Definitions
Element Number Description
S.01 Foundation - This element includes foundation(s) that are constructed of reinforced concrete or steel. Inspectors should assign ratings based on the overall condition of the foundation and its ability to function properly. The condition of grout pads, if present, shall also be included in this element.
S.02 Anchor Rods - This element defines anchor rods, anchor nuts, leveling nuts, and washers connecting the column support members to the foundation.
S.03 Base Plate(s) - This element defines the base plates, flanges, gusset plates and welds at the connection of the column support(s) to the foundation(s). The elements may be painted, unpainted, or galvanized.
S.04 Tower(s) - This element includes the vertical posts, truss members, handhole covers, and caps for the column supports on the structure. Flange and gusset plates at the column to span arm/chord connection are also included with this element. The element components may be painted/unpainted/galvanized steel or aluminum. This element includes posts for cantilever structures such as high mast lights.
S.05 Tower to Truss Chord/Arm Connection(s) - This element defines the flange and gusset plates connecting the span arms or chords to the column supports. The element components may be painted/unpainted/galvanized steel or aluminum.
S.06 Truss Chords/Arms - This element defines the truss frame members. The element components may be painted/unpainted/galvanized steel or aluminum. Weld cracks or connection defects on truss members are to be recognized as critical.
S.07 Truss Struts - This element defines the secondary truss members: the diagonal, horizontal, or vertical struts, the diagonals and the cross bracing. The element components may be painted/unpainted/galvanized steel or aluminum. Weld cracks or connection defects on truss members are to be recognized using the appropriate element.
S.08 Cracks - This element addresses cracks in members or welds on any structure element, particularly vertical, horizontal and diagonal truss members. In general, the less redundant an item is, the more critical a deficiency in that item becomes.
S.09 Chord Splice Connections - This element defines the splice(s). The element components may be painted/unpainted/galvanized steel or aluminum. This element should also be used for pole slip joint connections.
S.10 Sign Frame and L Brackets - This element defines the L-brackets, vertical hangers, horizontal braces, and other structural members that mount the sign panels to the sign arms, chords, or bridge girders (bridge-mounted signs only). Unit quantities should reflect each individual L-bracket or hanger. Item also includes sign clips (if used).
S.11 Sign Panels - This element defines the sign panel of the sign structure. This rating shall include the legibility of the sign, as well as the condition of the structural elements.
S.12 Catwalk - This element defines the walkway gratings, handrails, safety chains, and connections on the sign structure. The element may be painted, unpainted, or galvanized steel or aluminum.
S.13 Power and Luminaries - This element defines the visual condition of any luminaries in the lighting system on the sign structure, as well as the visual condition of any electrical lines and boxes.
S.14 VMS Sign - This element identifies a Variable Message Sign (VMS) mounted on the structure.
S.15 Sign Attachments - This element defines each accessory on the sign structure including dampeners, signs mounted on the tower, traffic-control devices and cameras.
S.16 Vertical Clearance, Camber and Alignment - This element defines the vertical clearances involving the structure, as well as the overall status of the alignment of the structure.
S.17 Protection, - This element defines the state of the devices such as guardrails protecting the structure. Evaluate for a distance of no more than 300' from the structure.
S.18 Other, - List any elements that do not fall into any category listed above. List each item and state condition.

Element S.08 'Cracks' is an interesting rating since it is not specific to an element, rather a condition. This element rating, proposed by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, allows a condition rating to be applied to a crack such as one would find in an aluminum sign truss. It allows the inspector to better define if the crack presents a future danger, such as the structure reaching its fatigue life, or just a maintenance or flaw in initial construction.

Note also that Elements S.11, S.13, S.14, S.16, and S.17 provide various nonstructural information on the ancillary structure.

For each of the eighteen elements, example ratings are provided in Appendix A 'Example Element Ratings'.

14.0 Element Condition Rating

An element rating system should be developed to properly assess the current performance against the originally intended function. There are many numerical rating systems used around the country for structural elements. Since these ancillary structures are usually not as complicated as most bridge structures, it is recommended that a simple '0' to '4' rating system be used as defined in Table 10.

Table 10 Element Condition Rating
Condition Description Feasible Action
0 Not Applicable None
1 Element performs intended function with high degree of reliability (Good) None
2 Element performs intended function with small reduction in reliability (Fair) Repair element, increase inspection frequency, do nothing
3 Element performs intended function with significant reduction in reliability (Poor) Repair or replacement of element within specified time frame
4 Element does not perform intended function with any degree of reliability (Critical) Immediate repair or replacement of element

An example inspection form developed by South Carolina and based on an element level system is contained in Appendix B. In this case a rating scale of 1 to 5 was used, but is otherwise similar to that in Table 10.

14.1 PONTIS Element Definitions and Ratings

To better correlate with bridge ratings that follow the PONTIS system, this section provides guidance for its application to ancillary structures. A sample report is provided in Appendix B. This approach defines commonly recognized structural elements (CoRe elements) used for sign and high mast light inspections. The following CoRe elements are recommended for use with ancillary structures:

  • Foundation(s)
  • Anchor bolt(s)
  • Base plate(s)
  • Column support(s)
  • Column to arm/chord connection
  • Arm/chord member
  • Chord splice connection
  • Span truss members
  • Sign frame
  • Sign panels
  • Catwalk
  • Luminaire
  • Sign attachment
  • Slip joint

Each CoRe element of an inspected structure can be evaluated and rated based on the rating guidelines presented in this section. Each CoRe element was assigned a standard unit type to quantify it. For example, the catwalk element is defined in terms of linear feet. If the entire catwalk measured 20 linear feet and minor deficiencies were observed on 5 feet of the element, 15 feet would be allocated as condition state 1, and 5 feet would have be allocated as condition state 2. The rating guidelines that follow provide element descriptions, units of measure, condition state descriptions, and feasible corrective actions for each CoRe element. Each CoRe element listing also considers the material composition and any protective coatings present. A Smart Flag should be used to identify member or connection cracks. The designation "DN" as a feasible action stands for do nothing.

Foundation(s) S.01
Units: EA

This element includes foundation(s) that are constructed of reinforced concrete or steel. Inspectors should assign ratings based on the overall condition of the foundation and its ability to function properly. The condition of grout pads, if present, shall also be included in this element.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: The element shows no deterioration. There may be discoloration, efflorescence, and/or superficial cracking in the concrete but without affect on strength and/or serviceability. There is no evidence of active corrosion of the steel. On metal foundations, the surface coatings are sound and functioning as intended.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor cracks and spalls may be present in the concrete foundation but there is no exposed reinforcing or surface evidence of rebar corrosion. Surface rust, surface pitting, has formed or is forming on steel foundation. Protective coatings may have minor areas of deterioration.
    Feasible Actions: DN Seal cracks, minor patch
    Clean and resurface steel
    -

  3. Fair: Some delaminations and/or spalls may be present in the concrete foundation and some reinforcing may be exposed. Corrosion of rebar may be present but loss of section is incidental and does not significantly affect the strength and/or serviceability of either the element or the sign structure. Protective coatings have failed. Surface pitting may be present but any section loss due to active corrosion is measurable and does not warrant structural analysis. Weep holes in grout pads are clogged or not present.
    Feasible Actions: DN Clean rebar, patch - and/or seal
    Clean and resurface steel
    -

  4. Poor: Advanced deterioration. Corrosion of reinforcement and/or loss of concrete section or sufficient section loss of the steel is sufficient to warrant analysis to ascertain the impact on the strength and/or serviceability of the element and/or the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

  5. Unknown: The foundation is buried and/or inaccessible and could not be evaluated.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove soil and Inspect -

Anchor Bolts S.02
Units: EA

This element defines anchor bolts, anchor nuts, leveling nuts, and washers connecting the column support members to the foundation.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: There is no deterioration or misalignment. The elements are fully engaged, tight, and in new or like-new condition.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor corrosion of the elements may be present. The elements are fully engaged.
    Feasible Actions: DN Tighten/Replace loose hardware -

  3. Fair: Moderate corrosion of the elements may be present. Anchor nuts are not fully engaged or bolts are misaligned. Washers are missing (if specified on design plans). One or two loose nuts may be observed, but do not significantly affect the strength and/or serviceability of either the element or the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Tighten/Replace loose Hardware Replace Element

  4. Poor: Heavy corrosion of the elements may be present. Bolts may be cracked/sheared or multiple anchor nuts are loose/missing. There is sufficient concern to warrant an analysis to ascertain the impact on the strength and/or serviceability of the element and/or the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Repair Element Replace Element

  5. Not Inspected: The anchor bolts are buried and/or inaccessible.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove soil and inspect element -

Base Plate(s) S.03
Units: EA

This element defines the base plates, flanges, gusset plates and welds at the connection of the column support(s) to the foundation(s). The elements may be painted, unpainted, or galvanized.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: No evidence of active corrosion. Surface coating is sound and functioning as intended to protect the metal surface.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor surface corrosion present.
    Feasible Actions: DN Clean and resurface -

  3. Fair: Any protective coating present has failed. Surface pitting may be present but any section loss due to active corrosion is measurable and does not warrant structural analysis.
    Feasible Actions: DN Clean and resurface -

  4. Poor: Cracks may be present on the base plate to column support connection weld. Corrosion is advanced. Section loss is sufficient to warrant structural analysis to ascertain the impact on the ultimate strength and/or serviceability of the element and/or the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Repair element Replace Element

  5. Not Inspected: Element is buried and/or inaccessible.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove soil and inspect -

Column Support(s) S.04
Units: EA

This element includes the vertical posts, truss members, handhole covers, and caps for the column supports on the structure. Flange and gusset plates at the column to span arm/chord connection are also included with this element. The element components may be painted/unpainted/galvanized steel or aluminum.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: No evidence of deterioration or misalignment. Elements are in new or like-new condition.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor damage or corrosion is present with no section loss. Handhole covers or post caps are missing.
    Feasible Actions: DN Repair/Replace Elements -

  3. Fair: Moderate damage or corrosion is present. Standing water may be observed on the inside of the post. Column supports may be out of plumb.
    Feasible Actions: DN Repair/Replace Elements -

  4. Poor: Heavy damage or corrosion of elements with localized section loss. Elements may be misaligned or have severe impact damage that may warrant structural analysis to ascertain the impact on the ultimate strength and/or serviceability of the element and/or the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

  5. Critical: Deterioration is so severe that structural integrity is in doubt. Failure may be imminent.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove from service Replace Unit

Column to Arm/Chord Connection S.05
Units: EA

This element defines the flange and gusset plates connecting the span arms or chords to the column supports. The element components may be painted/unpainted/galvanized steel or aluminum.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: Elements are in new or like-new condition with no significant deficiencies.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor corrosion with no section loss, minor misalignments, or superficial damage to components may be observed.
    Feasible Actions: DN Clean and resurface -

  3. Fair: Significant misalignment of components. Moderate corrosion or damage is present to one or more components.
    Feasible Actions: DN Clean and resurface
    Repair unit
    -

  4. Poor: Major or multiple element defects or section loss that may significantly impact the serviceability or integrity of the structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

  5. Critical: Multiple elements warrant ultimate strength and/or serviceability analysis.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove from service Replace Unit

Arm/Chord Member S.06
Units: EA

This element defines the truss frame members. The element components may be painted/unpainted/galvanized steel or aluminum. Weld cracks or connection defects on truss members are to be recognized using the appropriate smart flag.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: Elements are in new or like-new condition with no significant deficiencies.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor corrosion with no section loss, minor misalignments, or superficial damage to components may be observed.
    Feasible Actions: DN Clean and resurface -

  3. Fair: Significant misalignment of components. Moderate corrosion or damage is present to one or more components.
    Feasible Actions: DN Clean and resurface
    Repair unit
    -

  4. Poor: Cracks propagating into any truss member. Major or multiple element defects or section loss that may significantly impact the serviceability or integrity of the structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

  5. Critical: Multiple elements warrant ultimate strength and/or serviceability analysis.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove from service Replace Unit

Chord Splice Connection S.07
Units: EA

This element defines the splice(s). The element components may be painted/unpainted/galvanized steel or aluminum.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: Elements are in new or like-new condition with no significant deficiencies.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor corrosion with no section loss, minor misalignments, or superficial damage to components may be observed.
    Feasible Actions: DN Clean and resurface -

  3. Fair: Significant misalignment of components. Moderate corrosion or damage is present to one or more components.
    Feasible Actions: DN Clean and resurface
    Repair unit
    -

  4. Poor: Major or multiple element defects or section loss that may significantly impact the serviceability or integrity of the structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

  5. Critical: Multiple elements warrant ultimate strength and/or serviceability analysis.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove from service Replace Unit

Span Truss Members S.08
Units: LF (Span Length)

This element defines the chord(s). The element components may be painted/unpainted/galvanized steel or aluminum. (Ratings in a section of the element are rounded to the nearest linear foot of the element.) Weld cracks or connection defects on truss members are to be recognized using the appropriate smart flag.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: Elements are in new or like-new condition with no significant deficiencies.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor corrosion with no section loss, minor misalignments, or superficial damage to components may be observed.
    Feasible Actions: DN Clean and resurface -

  3. Fair: Significant misalignment of components. Moderate corrosion or damage is present to one or more components.
    Feasible Actions: DN Clean and resurface
    Repair unit
    -

  4. Poor: Cracks propagating into any chord. Major or multiple element defects or section loss that may significantly impact the serviceability or integrity of the structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

  5. Critical: Multiple elements warrant ultimate strength and/or serviceability analysis.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove from service Replace Unit

Sign Frame S.09
Units: EA

This element defines the L-brackets, vertical hangers, horizontal braces, and other structural members that mount the sign panels to the sign arms, chords, or bridge girders (bridge-mounted signs only). Unit quantities should reflect each individual L-bracket or hanger.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: The elements are in new or like-new condition with no misalignment.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: No serious deficiencies. An occasional loose connection nut may be observed.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab Unit -

  3. Fair: Significant deterioration or impact damage may be present. Multiple connection components may not be fully engaged. Multiple loose/missing backing strip nuts may be observed that could significantly affect the strength and/or serviceability of either the element or the sign structure. Connection hardware may need replacement.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab Unit -

  4. Poor: Connection components may be cracked, sheared, or missing nuts. Cracks may be observed on the welds. There is sufficient concern to warrant an analysis to ascertain the impact on the strength and/or serviceability of the element and/or the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Replace Unit -

  5. Critical: Any collision damage or deterioration significant enough to threaten collapse or separation from the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove from service Replace Unit

Sign Panels S.10
Units: SF

This element defines the sign panel of the sign structure. This rating shall include the legibility of the sign, as well as the condition of the structural elements.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: The elements are in new or like-new condition with no misalignment.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor loss of element legibility due to dulled paint or reflectorization. A few loose or missing backing strip nuts may be observed on back of the panels.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab Unit -

  3. Fair: Graffiti, vandalism, or collision damage may be present but not affecting element legibility. Moderate deterioration or impact damage to panels or connecting components.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab Unit Replace Unit

  4. Poor: Signs are difficult to read for any reason. Significant deterioration or damage to the sign panel and/or connecting components.
    Feasible Actions: DN Replace Unit -

  5. Critical: Any collision damage or deterioration significant enough to threaten collapse or separation from the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove from service Replace Unit

Catwalk S.11
Units: LF

This element defines the walkway gratings, handrails, safety chains, and connections on the sign structure. The element may be painted, unpainted, or galvanized steel or aluminum.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: The connections are in new or like-new condition with no significant deficiencies or evidence of active corrosion.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor damage or deterioration of the element may be observed. Connections may have loose nuts but have no significant deficiencies.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit -

  3. Fair: Moderate deterioration of the connections may be present. Handrails and locking pins may be misaligned or inoperable. Safety chain(s) may be missing or deteriorated.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit -

  4. Poor: Sections of gratings or handrails may be misaligned, unstable, damaged or missing. Damage is sufficient to warrant structural analysis to ascertain the impact on the ultimate strength and/or serviceability of the element. Heavy deterioration of the connections may be present.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

  5. Critical: Any collision damage or deterioration significant enough to threaten collapse or separation from the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

Luminare S.12
Units: EA

This element defines each luminare in the lighting system on the sign structure.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: Elements is fully functional and in new or like-new condition with no significant deficiencies.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor damage of the element may be observed. Element may be misaligned.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit -

  3. Fair: Light cover latches are broken or rusted shut. Missing cover plates. Loose, broken or missing sections of conduit. Open electrical boxes.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit -

  4. Poor: Broken or missing covers. Burned out bulbs/ballasts or missing light fixtures. Exposed wiring or unattached electrical boxes.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

  5. Critical: Any collision damage or deterioration significant enough to threaten separation from the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

Sign Attachment S.13
Units: EA

This element defines each accessory on the sign structure including dampeners, signs mounted on the column supports, traffic-control devices and cameras.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: Element is fully functional and in new or like-new condition with no significant deficiencies.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Minor damage, deterioration, or misalignment of element may be observed.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit -

  3. Fair: Moderate damage or deterioration of element, however the element remains functional.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit -

  4. Poor: Serious damage or deterioration to element is reducing the functional performance of the unit.
    Feasible Actions: DN
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

  5. Critical: Any collision damage or deterioration significant enough to threaten separation from the sign structure. Any exposed wiring or other dangerous condition.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Replace Unit

Slip Joint S.14
Units: EA

This element defines the slip joint connection on high-mast light structures.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Good: Element is in new or like-new condition with no significant deficiencies.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  2. Satisfactory: Misalignment or minor corrosion of element may be observed.
    Feasible Actions: DN - -

  3. Fair: Minor cracking of element or moderate corrosion. There is not sufficient concern to warrant an analysis to ascertain the impact on the strength and/or serviceability of the element and/or the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Repair unit -

  4. Poor: Cracking of element or significant corrosion. There is sufficient concern to warrant an analysis to ascertain the impact on the strength and/or serviceability of the element and/or the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Rehab unit Remove from service

  5. Critical: Structure is in imminent danger of collapse. Multiple elements warrant ultimate strength and/or serviceability analysis.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove from service -

Weld Crack (Smart Flag) S.15
Units: EA

This smart flag addresses cracks in welds on any sign structure element, particularly vertical, horizontal and diagonal truss members. In general, the less redundant an item is, the more critical a deficiency in that item becomes. This smart flag only refers to weld cracks. Other cracks should be identified in the rating for the appropriate element effected.

Condition state descriptions

  1. Minor: One or two minor "weld pool" cracks are present. Cracks that are short in length and shallow in depth, which may be grinded out for repair. This rating would also encompass incomplete welds or other minor fabrication defects in welded connections of truss members.
    Feasible Actions: DN Monitor condition Repair unit

  2. Fair: Several weld pool cracks are present, or a hairline crack exists at one or two redundant members. There is not sufficient concern to warrant an analysis to ascertain the impact on the strength and/or serviceability of the element and/or the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Monitor condition Repair unit

  3. Poor: Several hairline cracks are present, a single crack has visible width, or the welded connection has been severed on a redundant truss member. Any condition where there is sufficient concern to warrant an analysis to ascertain the impact on the strength and/or serviceability of the element and/or the sign structure.
    Feasible Actions: DN Repair/rehab unit Remove from service

  4. Critical: Crack has propagated into a non-redundant structural member (i.e. column or chord), or the welded connection has been completely severed. Multiple cracks on structure have created a condition such that the structure is in imminent danger of collapse.
    Feasible Actions: DN Remove from service -

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Updated: 07/30/2013
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000