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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-17-039    Date:  January 2016
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-17-039
Date: January 2016


FHWA Research And Technology Evaluation: Gusset Plates Final Report

4. Recommendations

Recommendations logoThe FHWA Infrastructure Program provided important and necessary expertise following the I‑35W Bridge collapse in Minneapolis, MN. The office’s preliminary research on gusset plate design and performance provided NTSB with needed expertise onsite during the investigation, and while recommendations were being developed. This research capability and technical expertise, along with a willingness to assist with additional onsite and follow-up work, allowed NTSB to quickly finalize its recommendations and let FHWA respond quickly to Recommendation H-08-001 by working collaboratively with AASHTO on NCHRP Project 12-84.

FHWA should remain flexible on how its research funding is used. In this particular case, there were approved projects that FHWA had originally intended to pursue regarding steel bridge research. Given the scale of the emergency and the immediate need for research and information, funds were then redirected into the Gusset Plate Project. FHWA management was flexible with funding, and legislation at the time was also flexible enough to provide this accommodation.

External input oversight from the NCHRP panel ensured the project stayed on track and avoided findings that were not useful. This external oversight is atypical in FHWA research programs and this specific method of comingling resources raises questions about roles and responsibilities, particularly around contracting. Nevertheless, input (and, indeed, funding) from State DOTs was appropriate and helpful. Consequently, FHWA should consider how external input was gathered on this project and how FHWA might improve this approach for future high-profile research projects.



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