U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content


Federal Highway Administration / Publications / Focus / June 2007

Accelerating Infrastructure Innovations

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-07-014
Date: June 2007

A National Call for Bridge Preservation

Successes, strategies, and challenges in bridge preservation took center stage as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) convened the first National Bridge Preservation Workshop, held from April 17-18, 2007, in St. Louis, Missouri. The workshop brought together 170 bridge preservation practitioners from State departments of transportation, industry, academia, the Transportation Research Board, and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to share bridge preservation strategies. The event was designed to give participants the opportunity to talk about their experiences, network, form regional bridge working groups, and provide input on a draft Bridge Preservation and Maintenance (BPAM) roadmap being developed by AASHTO. The roadmap lays out an action plan for national highway bridge preservation activities and strategies. "We need to be more proactive and not reactive, and do the right activity at the right time," said Wade Casey of FHWA's Office of Asset Management.

Sandra Larson, Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation's (DOT) Research and Technology Bureau, focused on some of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the bridge preservation community in her keynote address. With transportation agencies facing reduced funding, competing funding priorities, and declining buying power for materials, even while truck traffic and other congestion grow, monitoring bridge conditions and developing better tests to identify problems early is vital. States also need information about best practices and materials and techniques that result in durability and ease of maintenance for structures.

The workshop included roundtable discussions on bridge preservation strategies for each region of the country. The six regional roundtables gave State representatives the opportunity to share information on current practices, needs, funding, and performance goals related to bridge preservation. Many participants noted the lack of a formal definition for bridge preservation in their States. Participants also indicated that a dedicated funding source for bridge preservation and maintenance work is lacking. Successful preservation strategies employed by various States include North Carolina's painting and coating system for bridges and Florida's emphasis on preservation, maintaining existing condition, and extending service life. Several States also reported success in using dense concrete overlays for bridge preservation.

One of the session moderators, Claude Napier of FHWA's Virginia division office, noted in summing up the southeastern regional session that there is no one solution to the challenges of bridge preservation and maintenance. However, deterioration mechanisms and the extension of bridge service life need to be addressed. With a growing population of bridges more than 40 years old that will require significant maintenance, there must be a greater emphasis placed on system-wide preservation and maintenance.

Workshop sessions also looked at how to use bridge management system information to coordinate and optimize bridge preservation activities, including project selection and prioritization. David Eixenberger of the Utah Department of Transportation pointed out the need for States to define their program, establish criteria, and determine funding prioritization. Practitioners also need to be an advocate to build and support a case for funding that is geared toward upper management. Pete Weykamp of the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) described New York's establishment of a preventive maintenance program for bridges. Set up in 2005, the program has been a paradigm shift. Using an asset management strategy, NYSDOT's goal is to perform preventive maintenance to keep bridges in a state of good repair, rather than just fixing deficiencies.

Richard Kerr of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) indicated that FDOT has a 20-year history of funding preservation for bridges and highways. Analysis demonstrates that FDOT's bridge repair program saves approximately $70 million per year in construction costs alone. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has also seen the impact of its bridge preservation strategy. VDOT's preventive maintenance program targets activities that are planned in advance of accumulated deterioration and repair needs, with the goal of preserving the State's investment and extending the service life of the more than 13,000 bridges in Virginia. "VDOT is transitioning its bridge maintenance approach from a reactive and historical-based approach to a more proactive and needs-based approach," said Anwar Ahmad of VDOT.

The workshop also included sessions on bridge deck, substructure, and superstructure preservation and maintenance technologies, including corrosion prevention, sealant and waterproofing techniques for bridge decks, maintenance and replacement of expansion joints, and painting and coating techniques.

Figure 1. Photo. Truck on bridge. A tractor-trailer truck crosses a bridge.
The workshop brought together bridge preservation practitioners from across the country to share preservation strategies

The event concluded with a session on sharing bridge preservation strategies. One of the outcomes would be to establish a BPAM roadmap. "The roadmap is a strategic plan for highway preservation and maintenance opportunities that exist to preserve the Nation's highway bridge transportation assets," said Casey. Attendees were given the opportunity to review the draft roadmap and provide comments to the AASHTO Subcommittee on Maintenance (SCOM) Bridge Task Force. The roadmap will be finalized at this summer's SCOM meeting. During the concluding session, Pete Weykamp of NYSDOT also discussed forming regional bridge working groups and his association with one such group in the Northeast, while Ted Hopwood of the Kentucky Transportation Center discussed his involvement with the Midwest Regional Working Group. "Another workshop outcome would be to form additional work groups in other regions of the country to continue the dialogue of sharing bridge preservation strategies," said Casey.

More than 100 participants responded to a workshop evaluation, providing feedback on lessons learned, actions that need to be taken beyond the workshop, and research topics that should be pursued that will support bridge preservation practitioners. Nearly 60 respondents were in favor of holding the workshop periodically, suggesting a time period of every 2 years. As one participant noted, "this was without a doubt, the most productive conference I've ever attended."

For more information on the National Bridge Preservation Workshop or the BPAM roadmap, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/preservation/2007workshop.cfm or contact Wade Casey at FHWA, 202-366-4606 (email: wade.casey@fhwa.dot.gov).

Back to Articles in this Issue

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®
Updated: 06/27/2017
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000