A TECHNICAL PUBLICATION PRODUCED BY HDR VOLUME 13, NO. 1, JANUARY 2004
Bridge Asset Management: Planning and Preservation
By Gerry Godzwon, PE
ith department of transportation (DOT) budget cuts
W in recent years shifting the focus of project funding in
many states, a renewed emphasis on doing more with
less through preserving existing infrastructure has taken hold.
Currently, many state transportation systems are reaching the end
of their service lives due to larger vehicles and increased truck
traffic volumes, which can often speed the destruction of highways.
Several state DOTs are taking a hard look at their reduced budgets,
age of their systems, increased traffic demands and increased loads
and in the process are developing a new strategy to extend useful
service life and get the most out of their transportation dollars. The
solution? An enhanced bridge asset management program.
What is Bridge Asset Management?
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines asset
management as, “…a systematic process of maintaining,
A comprehensive bridge inspection program is the cornerstone of successful bridge
upgrading, and operating physical assets cost-effectively. It asset management.
combines engineering principles with sound business practices and
economic theory, and it provides tools to facilitate a more
organized, logical approach to decision-making.”
Essentially, asset management involves taking what is already Many states have a bridge inspection program under the operations
there, taking care of it, and making it last as long as possible. As or bridge management sections, to facilitate the flow of information
applied to bridges, this concept means examining an existing bridge about the condition of bridges and to ensure frequent visits to the
and performing all the necessary maintenance and preventative site to monitor deterioration or repairs. The use of National Bridge
treatments to make it last as long as possible, or until it costs more Inspection Standards (NBIS) and PONTIS® inspection data
to keep up than constructing a new one. records for each bridge produces a useful database to track
maintenance, performance and repairs.
What Does Bridge Asset Management Entail?
An effective bridge asset management strategy centers on many To tie this all together, the bridge management engineer is armed
key aspects: treatment strategies; deterioration modeling; cost with an inspection report that details deficiencies, a deterioration
modeling, future costs and life-cycle cost analyses; bridge model that suggests what kind of treatment strategy to use, costs
inspection; budget planning and prioritization; use of geographic associated with the repair from the economic analysis, and a
information systems (GIS); training; emergency management concept report on the bridge to recommend repairs and detail the
planning; and rehabilitation and retrofitting. estimated costs.
Treatment strategies to study repair applications that best suit a This purpose and need, combined with the developed cost estimate,
particular bridge, and deterioration modeling to predict how long a can help the engineer with budget planning and prioritization. This
bridge can go untreated until major repairs are necessary, help also enables the engineer, when searching for federal and state
bridge engineers prioritize repairs. bridge funds, to ensure the bridge is repaired to the best service
Engineers also turn to economics to perform cost modeling,
comparing the cost effectiveness of repairs to keep a bridge in One state DOT is developing the use of GIS to keep a database of
service versus the amount of service life remaining before a major bridge type, load rating and overload capacity, and other
rehabilitation or replacement is required. Estimating future costs of information that can help at ports of entry for oversize truck and
bridge repairs, overlays, rehabilitation or replacement can help a overload routing in a matter of minutes. This can also help sort all
bridge engineer plan these activities to ensure the most cost- bridges with a certain type of overlay to see how it is performing,
effective solution is implemented. A life-cycle cost analysis can sort by fracture-critical bridges for inspection monitoring purposes,
determine the cost of a bridge over its entire life using cost or other parameters the engineer deems important.
modeling and the future costs of repairs.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is currently
training maintenance crews on what to look for on their routine
visits to a bridge site, what maintenance can be performed to extend
bridge service life, and when to call the structures division to look
at a potential problem. This is critical because the maintenance
crews see a bridge most often and monitor its performance.
Most states in substantial earthquake zones have an
emergencymanagement plan in the case of an extreme seismic
event, and for other emergencies, such as terrorism, tornadoes and
Many Western states are in elevated seismic zones with older
bridges that are not designed to adequately resist a strong
earthquake or other natural disasters. State bridge engineers
sometimes elect to retrofit older in-service bridges to bring them up
to the current seismic code.
Asset Management in Action: The UDOT Philosophy
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is just one
example of a state DOT embracing asset management as a means
of making the most out of existing infrastructure.
UDOT’s formal strategic direction for fiscal year 2004 consists of
four key concepts:
• Take Care of What We Have
• Make What We Have Work Better
• Increase Transportation System Capacity
• Improve Highway System Capacity and Operations Safety
David Nazare, PE, the Utah State Bridge Engineer, states, “In the A large number of U.S. bridges were built in the 40s, 50s and 60s, and are now
reaching the end of their service life. This trend will continue, increasing the number
70s and 80s, the main focus of state DOTs was to build an interstate of bridges that need major rehabilitation or replacement.
and network of highways to move goods and people. Today we
need to manage the system, own it.”
David Eixenberger, PE, UDOT’s Deputy Bridge Engineer new system to be up and running in a few years, which in turn
(Operations), adds, “Three years ago our bridge management affects the type of repair or rehabilitation, if necessary.
budget was $1 million, this year it is $15 million, and in 2007 we
hope to have $17.5 million. I look at four facets of bridge life and Applying Asset Management Across the Country
preservation: maintenance, preventative actions, corrective actions, Bridge asset management also has been embraced by other DOTs.
and rehabilitation or replacement. I make the analogy of preserving In the late 1990s, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)
and maintaining an investment such as house or a car.” formed two sections to perform bridge management within its
bridge division: field operations and project development.
Currently, the UDOT system has 1,767 state-owned bridges.
“That’s roughly a $2.5-billion investment by the federal government Michael O’Toole, PE, Section Director for Project Development
and the state,” says Nazare. “We have a responsibility to take care says, “Starting in 2001, we created the Report on Texas Bridges that
of the taxpayer’s investment, catch problem areas early when it reports the condition of Texas bridges and helps track deficient
costs less, rather than when it becomes a corrective or rehabilitation bridges, especially state on-system bridges. We submit this report
issue.” Responding to the bridge asset management demand, in to legislators and transportation commissioners and it shows
2003 UDOT added a Bridge Management work discipline to its bi- whether we are improving or falling behind in taking care of our
yearly Request for Proposals. Previously, UDOT only had a Bridge bridges, and heightens awareness of the condition of bridges to aid
Design work discipline. us in acquiring the funding that we need.”
Adds Nazare, “I consider several external factors, along with bridge FHWA opened its Office of Asset Management in February 1999 to
factors, when looking at what to do with a mid-life bridge; “…encourage the states to move away from a purely engineering-
structural capacity, functional capacity, traffic capacity, and system based system to more of an economic system…to consider the costs
life. The ideal would be for all four to reach the end of service life and benefits.” Recognizing the need for funding of bridge asset
together.” This entails communicating with traffic engineers to see management projects, FHWA set up the Highway Bridge
what the current traffic capacity is on the bridge and the amount of Replacement and Rehabilitation Program (HBRRP), encouraging
functional capacity. Are the shoulders up to current code and are states to fully consider preservation strategies for bridges. The
the parapets up to current structural standards? Finally, what is the web address for the Office of Asset Management is:
system life? The planning department may be designing a whole http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/asstmgmt/manag.htm
Due to the sheer number of bridges in
service, the advanced age of the
transportation system, heavier highway
loads and more traffic, and tighter
economic times, bridge asset
management is coming to the forefront
as a decision making process and tool
for federal and state DOTs.
Through the principles of bridge asset
management, state bridge engineers
can prioritize and budget for strategic
and cost-effective bridge repairs and
preservation to get the most out of the
system, saving the federal, state, and
local governments precious money that
ultimately saves the taxpayer money.
Gerry Godzwon can be reached in
HDR’s Salt Lake City, Utah, office at
(801) 281-8892, fax (801) 281-8693 or