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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-19-004    Date:  Summer 2019
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-19-004
Issue No: Vol. 83 No. 2
Date: Summer 2019

 

A New Home for Bridge Data

by Jean Nehme

FHWA's InfoBridge™ is a centralized gateway for efficient and quick access to performance-related data and information.

Screen capture of the LTBP InfoBridge homepage. The main navigation includes three options: data, analytics, and library. Source: FHWA.
The InfoBridge web portal provides site users with a one-stop shop for accessing data, analytics, and a library of other LTBP resources.

Collecting critical bridge performance data that are not available elsewhere and merging them with data gathered from other available sources is no small task. Providing efficient and quick access to data and information has been an even bigger challenge until now. In January 2019, the Federal Highway Administration's Long-Term Bridge Performance (LTBP) Program released the LTBP InfoBridge™ web portal for dissemination and visualization of data, information, and products it develops. The portal's main purpose is to leverage the analytical capability of the highway bridge research community, and serve as a means of fulfilling FHWA's responsibility to provide transparency and ready access to data collected through Federal research programs.

In addition to providing a trove of bridge performance information for use in research studies, InfoBridge enables bridge owners with limited or no access to bridge asset management software to manage their bridge inventories through a seamless user interface that incorporates state-of-the-art querying and visualization tools. Universities that have bridge engineering curricula can also benefit from InfoBridge because it enables students to access a free platform that is extremely data rich and analytics ready. The portal, available at https://infobridge.fhwa.dot.gov, is cloud-based and does not require user registration or login.

"Our goal at FHWA is to make InfoBridge a comprehensive bridge performance portal, enabling researchers to develop tools and products that will enhance understanding of the performance of highway bridge assets, and enabling anyone interested in bridge performance to easily access and explore the available information," says Cheryl Richter, Ph.D., P.E., director of the Office of Infrastructure Research and Development at FHWA. "Ultimately, it will lead to more efficient design, construction, rehabilitation, maintenance, preservation, and management of those assets."

Goals of the LTBP Program

The LTBP Program is a long-term research effort to help the bridge community better understand bridge performance. The overall objectives of the LTBP Program are to monitor representative samples of bridges nationwide to collect, document, maintain, manage, and disseminate high-quality quantitative performance data over an extended period of time. The program accomplishes this by taking advantage of advanced nondestructive evaluation and structural health monitoring technologies in addition to traditional visual bridge inspection approaches.

FHWA designed the LTBP Program to collect critical performance data that are not available elsewhere and merge them with data gathered from other available sources. Achieving all its objectives requires the LTBP Program to collaborate closely with State transportation departments, academia, and industry.

The LTBP Program created InfoBridge to provide a user-friendly web portal that includes intuitive tools for finding, viewing, and analyzing bridge performance information. The tool gives users the ability to efficiently share data selections and summary reports.

InfoBridge Modules

The InfoBridge web portal includes multiple tools that facilitate bridge data analytics. It provides for storage, retrieval, dissemination, analysis, and visualization of data collected through State, national, and LTBP Program efforts to provide users with the ability to holistically assess bridge performance on a network or individual bridge basis. What follows is a more detailed look at several of the main components.

Find Bridges. This feature consists of data filter attributes grouped under the categories of National Bridge Inventory (NBI), National Bridge Elements (NBE), and LTBP. This feature enables the user to efficiently query the database and present the results both in a paginated tabular view and on a map. Users can see performance data and statistics on the dashboard. In addition, users have the option to save query and filter criteria for future use.

Advanced Find. While the Find Bridges feature works on basic data attributes, the Advanced Find feature enables users to further narrow down their selection criteria by using all data attributes available under different categories. This feature works in conjunction with the Find Bridges feature, and it enables users to apply sophisticated data searches on the underlying bridge data.

Map Find. The Map Find feature plots the selected bridges on an interactive map. By using drawing tools, users can change the selection criteria and view the results on the map. This feature is useful independently as well as in conjunction with the Find Bridges and Advanced Find features to further refine the selected dataset.

Performance Dashboard. The Performance Dashboard displays bar charts, tabulated summaries, and historical performance graphs corresponding to the selected bridges. It enables users to view performance summaries at a glance. As in all InfoBridge modules, the user can print or download the data displayed on the dashboard.

Bridge Information. Selecting a bridge from the Selected Bridges table or map displays the bridge details under the Bridge Information section. The Bridge Information section is categorized in different tabs including overview, NBI, NBE, climate, and LTBP tabs. The overview tab displays the key data attributes and overall extent of the data availability for the selected bridge. The remaining tabs provide access to the bridge data for the corresponding data category. This feature also provides the ability to generate a bridge report per NBI submittal year for the selected bridge.

Screen capture of the LTBP InfoBridge Find Bridges page. The page shows the three-step process for bridge selection: (1) select criteria, (2) apply criteria, and (3) find bridges. The left-side navigation provides options for filtering data under the categories of National Bridge Inventory, National Bridge Elements, and LTBP. Source: FHWA.
Site users can efficiently query the database by selecting criteria and filtering data to meet their needs.
Screen capture from the LTBP InfoBridge site showing a map of Nebraska with bridges meeting the search criteria plotted on the map. Source: FHWA.
InfoBridge search options enable users to find and map bridges and conditions within the criteria they set. For example, this map shows the results of a search for all bridges on the National Highway System located in Nebraska.

Visualize Bridge Data. Different visualization options are available for reviewing and analyzing bridge data. Graphs and charts depict historical bridge condition data, bridge component deterioration modeling, and climatic data. LTBP Program bridges have additional data associated with them such as nondestructive evaluation results and design/construction information. Innovative visualization techniques model bridge component deterioration interactively.

Analytics. The Analytics feature enables researchers to use the extensive bridge performance data contained within InfoBridge to view, develop, and improve forecasting models for bridge performance. While the focus of data analysis is on understanding the past, data analytics focuses on the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data. InfoBridge offers state-of-the-art tools and techniques that enable users to apply data analytics to bridge performance data.

Library. The Library provides access to LTBP Program products and publications. Included are LTBP protocols for establishing a consistent methodology covering the planning, field collection, and postprocessing of bridge performance data. In addition, historical changes in bridge materials and design specifications are displayed in chronological order.

Help. The Help feature consists of the sitemap and frequently asked questions sections. In addition, it contains a Customer Support Request page, enabling users to submit questions and provide feedback to the LTBP Customer Support Service Center.

The Future of InfoBridge

FHWA expects to implement major enhancements to InfoBridge over the next few years. Many enhancements—for example, augmenting the number of the available fields to query the data, improving the chart capabilities, enabling users to dynamically design the layout of the "Selected Bridges" table, and implementing bridge deck deterioration models—are already in the works, and others will be based on feedback from the user community.

"Maintaining the data and tools that constitute InfoBridge is a major challenge that we plan to confront as long as the benefits to our stakeholders justify our efforts," Richter says.

In addition to updating InfoBridge NBI data annually and increasing the amount of the research-quality data that it is collecting through the LTBP Program, FHWA also will continue to explore incorporating data collected by others when appropriate.


Jean Nehme, Ph.D., P.E., is team leader of FHWA's Long-Term Infrastructure Performance programs. He oversees the Long-Term Pavement Performance Program and the LTBP. Nehme joined FHWA in 2017 after a 26-year career at the Arizona Department of Transportation where he held various positions including State bridge engineer, State asset management engineer, and director of performance management and research. He holds bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees in engineering from the University of New Mexico. He is a licensed professional engineer in Arizona.

For more information, see https://infobridge.fhwa.dot.gov and https://highways.dot.gov/long-term-infrastructure-performance/ltbp/long-term-bridge-performance or contact Jean Nehme at 202–493–3042 or jean.nehme@dot.gov.

 

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