FHWA Bridge Management Information Lab: Making the Most of the Nation's Bridge Data
The sudden catastrophic collapse of the Silver Bridge connecting Point
Pleasant, West Virginia, and Kanauga, Ohio, in 1967 focused the Nation’s
attention on the deterioration of the national bridge network. To improve
safety and stem the tide of deterioration, the Federal Highway Administration
(FHWA) established the National Bridge Inspection Program in 1970. The
program requires State highway agencies to inspect their bridges every
2 years and submit the inspection results to FHWA, where they are maintained
in the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database.
The NBI data provides the most comprehensive multi-year source of
network level composition and condition information for U.S. highway
bridges. However, despite the great potential for research and analysis
offered by the NBI database, it has not always been easy for bridge
engineers and other interested parties to readily access the data.
|The National Bridge Inventory provides the
most comprehensive multi-year source of information abou the composition
and condition of U.S. highway briges.
To facilitate access to the NBI and other bridge data, as well as
establish a place for objective research, FHWA created the Bridge Management
Information Systems Laboratory (BMISL) in 1994. The lab’s objectives
- Examining all sources of bridge system information
- Identifying causes of deficiencies in the bridge network
- Conducting data mining and data analysis to identify bridge materials
and their deterioration patterns
- Conducting research to enhance bridge management decision making
- Developing tools for disseminating useful bridge-related information.
Recent lab activities have included developing statistical models
for predicting and analyzing bridge deteriorations and testing the application
of artificial intelligence to improve the bridge management decision-making
process. Data collection and integration activities are ongoing, as
is the development of a repository for geotechnical, environmental,
climatic, and other bridge data. “By integrating disparate data
sources and applying the tools developed, new insights, understanding,
and knowledge about the Nation’s bridges are being created,”
says Steve Chase, Technical Director for Bridges in FHWA’s Office
of Infrastructure Research and Development.
Upcoming Focus articles will highlight these data mining
and analysis and bridge management research activities, as well as products
that have been developed to help State highway agencies and others tap
into the lab’s storehouse of data, so stay tuned. For more information
about the BMISL, visit www.tfhrc.gov/bmis/.
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