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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Focus > December 2005 > Bridge Management Systems: Meeting the Challenges of Managing Bridge Assets
December 2005Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-06-021

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Bridge Management Systems: Meeting the Challenges of Managing Bridge Assets

As an increasing number of States implement an asset management approach to managing transportation infrastructure, the use of bridge management systems is playing a key role in collecting and managing bridge data and managing bridge assets. Forty-one States and five municipalities are now using the Pontis® Bridge Management System, a comprehensive software tool initially developed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and now available from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) as an AASHTOWare® product.

A new case study available from FHWA, Bridge Management, looks at the experiences of three States who have moved beyond using Pontis to collect inventory and inspection data only and are reaping benefits from using the software's management capabilities more fully. "These States have customized Pontis to better meet their bridge management needs," says Raj Ailaney, formerly with the FHWA Office of Asset Management and now at the FHWA Resource Center.

Pontis can be used to store bridge inventory and inspection data; formulate network-wide preservation and improvement policies; and make recommendations for projects to be included in an agency's capital improvement program, so as to achieve the maximum benefit from limited funds. Most notably, it provides a systematic procedure for the allocation of resources to the preservation and improvement of the bridges in a network by considering both the costs and benefits of maintenance policies versus investments in improvements or replacement.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) maintains all of the information necessary to manage the State's approximately 24,500 bridges in a single database using the Pontis data structure. Additional tables are linked to the Pontis data structure for such activities as project tracking, maintenance recommendations, and post-earthquake inspection activities. Information from bridge inspections is entered into the central database, including detailed fracture critical findings, load rating information, and photos. This information is ultimately presented in a bridge inspection report, which documents the current condition of the bridge and all recommended work for that structure.

Caltrans bridge management staff use Pontis to perform deterioration modeling and project prioritization. The Office of Structure Maintenance and Investigation then compares the priority list of projects generated by Pontis against recommendations received from inspectors and others around the State. In addition, the database is used by district maintenance crews, project planners, Caltrans management, and the California Transportation Commission to generate reports as needed.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has customized Pontis so that it is integrated with two additional tools, the Citrix® MetaFrame Access Suite and the Project-Level Analysis Tool (PLAT). Citrix MetaFrame is a Web-based tool for bridge inspections that provides users a single point of access from any location and over any connection, while PLAT is a decision support system tool for making routine policy, programming, and budgeting decisions. This decision support framework complements and builds on the existing network-level analysis in Pontis.

Bridge inspection information entered into Pontis by FDOT is sorted into three categories: routine maintenance, periodic maintenance and repair, and replacements. Work orders are then created in Pontis and given a priority rating of one to four, with one being an emergency situation requiring work to be completed within 60 days.

For the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT), Pontis has proved to be a valuable tool in preserving the State's aging structures. Using Pontis, SDDOT can calculate the rate of deterioration for various bridge materials, such as concrete, prestressed concrete, steel, and timber. Pontis has the ability to "learn" how different materials deteriorate at different rates, using the inspection information that is entered, and can thus modify recommended repair and replacement policies. SDDOT also uses Pontis to recommend bridge projects for its 5-year Surface Transportation Improvement Program.

Building on the efficiencies it has gained using Pontis, SDDOT has embarked on a new asset management initiative known as Concept to Contract (C2C). The C2C initiative will combine various management systems and databases into a consolidated database, which will track a construction project from conception until the time it is advertised for construction.

"The Office of Asset Management would like to see other States more fully use the capabilities of bridge management systems such as Pontis," says Steve Gaj of the FHWA Office of Asset Management.

The latest version of the Pontis software, Pontis 4.4, is available from AASHTO. For more information, visit www.aashtoware.org (choose "Software" and then "Pontis"). A new Web-based version of the software, Pontis 5.0, is currently under development, with a 2007 scheduled release date. FHWA's National Highway Institute (NHI) offers a Pontis Bridge Management training course (Course No. FHWA-NHI-134056). Also available from FHWA's Resource Center is a 2-hour Executive Overview for State managers and officials and a bridge element level training course. For more information or to schedule the NHI training course, contact the NHI Training Team, 703-235-0534 (email: nhitraining@fhwa.dot.gov). For more information on the Executive Overview and element level inspection training, contact Larry O'Donnell in the FHWA Resource Center, 708-283-3502 (email: larry.o'donnell@fhwa.dot.gov).

To learn more about using asset management in general or bridge management in particular, contact Wade F. Casey in the FHWA Office of Asset Management, 202-366-4606 (email: wade.casey@fhwa.dot.gov). The Bridge Management case study (Publication No. FHWA-IF-05-040) is available online at www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/asstmgmt/casestudies.cfm.

HPC Bridge Views Online

The joint Federal Highway Administration/National Concrete Bridge Council newsletter on high-performance concrete (HPC), HPC Bridge Views, is now being published in electronic format only. The newsletter features updates on HPC technology, projects, and events. The current Winter 2005/2006 issue and all future issues until further notice will be available online at www.cement.org/bridges/br_newsletter.asp. Previous issues are also available on the Web site. New subscribers can send an email request to ncbc@cement.org to receive a free copy electronically. Current subscribers with an email address on file will also receive an electronic copy.

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Updated: 04/07/2011

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