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Bridges & Structures

Subject: ACTION: National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) Request for Annual NBIS Program Review Reports Date: June 22, 2001
From: /s/ Original signed by:
Raymond McCormick for
James D. Cooper
Director of Bridge Technology
Reply to Attn. of: HIBT-30
To: Directors of Field Services
Division Administrators
Federal Lands Highway Division Engineers

The National Bridge Inspection (NBI) Program is one of the Federal Government's most effective safety programs. But it is one that requires close and continued monitoring by State and local bridge owners, our Division offices, the Resource Centers and Washington Headquarters. For that reason, I am asking each Division office to resume forwarding a copy of its annual State NBIS Compliance Review Report to the Office of Bridge Technology.

For many years, the Annual Maintenance Monitoring Program (AMMP) required each Division to submit a copy of its annual State NBIS Compliance Review to Washington Headquarters. After the Annual Maintenance Monitoring requirements were withdrawn, we experienced a significant decline in the number of Divisions submitting copies of their State NBIS Compliance Review Reports to this office. The absence of the data has had an impact on our ability to develop national data summaries for Reports to Congress; to respond to inquiries from Congress, the National Transportation Safety Board, and others; and in formulating national policy.

Largely because of the NBIS and increased resources for bridge replacement and rehabilitation, the United States experiences virtually no catastrophic bridge failures due to undetected structural flaws or defects. On the contrary, we continue to receive reports from the Divisions about potential failures that were averted as the result of bridge inspections. By far, most bridge failures occur as a result of natural disasters, such as earthquakes or unusually extreme flooding.

The FHWA's role in overseeing this program has not changed significantly even with the flexibilities afforded to the States under ISTEA and TEA-21. We are still responsible for assuring each State's bridge inspection program is carried out in a manner that will ensure the safety of the motoring public. For the FHWA, the annual program reviews by the Division Bridge Engineers, in cooperation with their State partners, remain the prime method for ensuring NBIS compliance.

It is extremely important that management at the Division and State DOT levels continue to provide support for these program reviews. The reviews generally do not turn up glaring safety issues, nor would I expect them to after 3 decades of experience. However, they do expose weaknesses and areas for improvement in State and local bridge inspection programs. They also generate lines of communication among the State DOT's, local governments, and the FHWA that can make quality improvements easier to achieve.

In summary, the Nation's aging infrastructure and the increased demands on the highway system are making the NBIS even more critical. The Nation's bridges will remain safe only through the dedicated efforts of the State DOT's and the FHWA. Continued efforts at the State and national levels to collect information on the status of the program are essential. In addition, the NBIS needs the support of the State DOT's and the FHWA's Division Structural and Bridge Engineers as well as the Division Administrators and leaders of the Federal Lands Highway Program and Resource Centers to remain effective and provide the level of safety the motoring public deserves.

As your reviews are completed each year we ask that, electronic or hard copies, be submitted directly to Mr. Raymond McCormick in HIBT-30 (e-mail:Raymond.mccormick@fhwa.dot.gov). Upon receipt of the reports each year the Office of Bridge Technology will develop a general status report identifying weaknesses in the program as well as a listing of best practices, if any, identified in the Division Office reports. Our combined report will be shared with the Divisions and Resource Centers. I trust that this request can be handled in a way that provides the data we need without unduly burdening Division office staff. Please contact Mr. Raymond McCormick at (202) 366-4675 if you have any concerns or questions about our request for assistance or in regard to the program.

Updated: 06/27/2017
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000