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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Focus > August 2001 > Rhode Island Keeps Bridge Data at Its Fingertips
August 2001Publication Number: FHWA-RD-01-066

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Rhode Island Keeps Bridge Data at Its Fingertips

With the touch of a button, bridge inspectors at the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) can instantly call up reports on 341 separate bridge inspection items, thanks to a custom-designed database. For Rhode Island, the database has turned what was often a cumbersome inspection reporting process into a fast and streamlined system, making it easier for the State to evaluate its structures and prepare the annual Structural Inventory and Appraisal reports required by the Federal Highway Administration.

The database was developed by Supervising Civil Engineer Al Santoro, who took commercially available software and customized it for Rhode Island DOT's needs. He then combined the software with an Integrated Bridge Inspection Information System (IBIIS), which provides optical support for the database. The IBIIS allows inspectors to scan in photos, videos, plan sheets, and other items to augment the details contained in bridge inspection reports. This allows for greater quality control, as the inspection reports can be compared to the bridge plans and photos to make sure they are consistent.

The database has also made the reporting process much more efficient. In the past, each inspection of a particular bridge would start from scratch with a blank form. Now, inspectors have the benefit of comments from previous inspections, so that the quality of information on each bridge gets better as time goes on. "Initially bridge inspectors thought it would make their job harder, but over time they saw that it really made their job easier," says Bridge Inspection Engineer Marc Bruneau.

The detailed reporting system allows a user to pinpoint deficient portions of a particular bridge. The database differentiates every beam, girder, bearing, etc., on each span of every bridge. Thus, the DOT can precisely identify which girders are deficient and where they are located. And since the advent of the database, inspectors no longer have to prepare separate deficiency reports. The system generates these reports automatically, placing deficiencies in three categories: "Reportable," "Needs Attention," and "Critical."

The database also integrates the inspection process with the maintenance and planning processes. Repairs that have taken place since the last inspection are documented in the database and this information is made available to the bridge inspectors.

Future planned improvements to the system include upgrading it so that the data can be imported into software programs such as Excel and broadening access so that other sections of Rhode Island DOT can link directly to the database.

"Although this system was customized to meet Rhode Island's needs, I believe it could be adapted for use by other State DOTs," says Santoro.

For more information, contact Al Santoro at 401-222-2355 (fax: 401-222-1424; email: asantoro@dot.state.ri.us), or Marc Bruneau at 401-222-2355 (fax: 401-222-1424; email: mbruneau@dot.state.ri.us).

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Updated: 04/07/2011

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