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Bridges & Structures

Subject: INFORMATION: Funding for Bridge Inspection Equipment and Access Features Date: October 5, 2005
From: /s/ Original signed by Benjamin Tang for
M. Myint Lwin, P.E.
Director, Office of Bridge Technology
Reply to Attn. of: HIBT-30
To: Directors of Field Services
Resources Center Director and Operations Managers
Division Administrators

The Office of Bridge Technology is revising its policy regarding the use of Federal-aid funds, specifically Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program (HBRRP) funds for the purchase of specialized bridge inspection equipment (such as underbridge inspection vehicles, mobile inspection platforms, non-destructive evaluation equipment and data collection and analysis equipment). Consistent with 49 CFR Part 18, the U.S. DOT's common rule for Grants and Cooperative Agreements with State and Local Governments, and OMB Circular A-87, Cost Principles for State, Local, and Indian Tribal governments, Federal grant funds may be used to purchase equipment if the cost is reasonable and the equipment is necessary for performance of the Federal grant (i.e., project).

Therefore, if a division office determines that the cost of such equipment is reasonable and the equipment is necessary for a federally funded bridge inspection program or a federally funded bridge management system (BMS), the purchase of the equipment may be approved by the Division and be charged directly to the project. On the other hand, if the equipment will be used infrequently, the division office may determine that the cost is not reasonable and that equipment should be rented, instead of purchased by the State, and the cost of the lease charged to the Federal-aid inspection or BMS project. Due to the specific nature of the bridge inspection equipment, it is assumed that it will be used for Title 23 activities until its life is expended. Therefore, the State is not required to perform an amortization of purchase costs as is normally done for construction equipment. If the equipment will not be used for a federally funded bridge inspection or BMS project, Federal-aid funds may not be used for either purchase or rental of the equipment. In addition, authorization of a Federal-aid project that includes only the purchase of such equipment is not permissible.

In summary, if a State utilizes Federal-aid funds for its bridge inspection/management system, then the cost of equipment utilized to accomplish this work can be charged to an HBRRP funded bridge inspection project. A separate Federal-aid project that includes only purchase of such equipment may not be established.

Federal HBRRP funds may also be used for the installation of permanent features that facilitate inspection activities on highway bridges as defined in 23 CFR 650.305. Such features as handrails, anchor points for a horizontal lifeline, and catwalks would be a few examples.

In addition to HBRRP funds, National Highway System, Surface Transportation Program, and State Planning and Research funds may be used for development, establishment, and implementation of bridge management systems and associated data collection activities (See 23 U.S.C. 303(g), 23 U.S.C. 103(b)(6)(L), 23 U.S.C. 133(b)(10), and 23 U.S.C. 505(a)(3) for relevant law citations). Therefore, if a BMS is being funded with these funds under a Federal-aid project, the cost of the purchase or rental of equipment necessary for the BMS may be charged to that project.


With the January 2005 update of the National Bridge Inspection Standards and the ever-increasing complexity and cost of bridge inspection activities with more advanced equipment, the FHWA decided to revise its March 20, 1984, policy regarding the use of HBRRP funds for the purchase of specialized bridge inspection equipment. Increasing demand and a concern that the absence of a funding source for new inspection equipment may be adversely impacting the National Bridge Inspection Program were factors in this determination.

The HBRRP (23 U.S.C. 144) is primarily a Federal-aid bridge construction program. The distribution of funds is based on bridge needs as determined by inspection data. The inspection data is obtained through the National Bridge Inspection Program, which is required under 23 U.S.C. 151. Bridge inspection has specifically and previously been determined to be an eligible activity for HBRRP funding. This determination is documented in the Federal-Aid Program Guide Non-Regulatory Supplement for 23 CFR Part 650, Subpart D. With the

March 1984 FHWA memorandum, procurement of equipment and supplies that were under five thousand dollars in value were permitted under 49 CFR 18, but more expensive non-expendable specialized bridge inspection equipment was to be charged on a depreciation or rental basis. Part of this 1984 determination was based on policies that apply to construction programs and projects. While the HBRRP is a construction program, the National Bridge Inspection Program is not and therefore slightly different rules apply.

Accordingly, we have made an interpretation that provides maximum flexibility to the States in carrying out important bridge safety requirements, while staying within the intent of the law.

If you have any questions please contact Mr. Gary Moss of the Office of Bridge Technology at 202-366-4654.

Updated: 10/05/2022
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000