THE CONCRETE BRIDGE MAGAZINE

SPRING 2018

ASPIRE is a quarterly magazine published by PCI in cooperation with the associations of the National Concrete Bridge Council. The editorial content focuses on the latest technology and key issues in the Concrete Bridge Industry.

Issue link: http://www.aspiremagazinebyengineers.com/i/957336

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FHWA Changing Bridge Terminology of the Federal-aid Highway Program by Dr. Joseph L. Hartmann The collapse of a span of the Interstate 5 Skagit River Bridge after being struck by an overheight load on May 23, 2013, resulted in a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) highway accident investigation. On site the next day, I helped the NTSB chairman prepare for a press conference on the incident and found myself once again explaining the language of the Federal-aid Highway Program, what the language meant, and, just as important, what it did not mean. If you are a bridge engineer, you are likely to be familiar with the language of the program and, hopefully, understand its purpose and how to use it. To help the chairman prepare for the unavoidable questions that are always asked after a bridge incident, I skipped the formal definitions and associated each of the bridge-specific terms with a characteristic of the bridge or program. • Structurally Deficient (SD) refers to the condition of the bridge. • Functionally Obsolete (FO) refers to the roadway geometry on the bridge. • Sufficiency Rating (SR) refers to funding the bridge is eligible for. • Fracture Critical (FC) refers to how a bridge is inspected. After explaining each association with the chairman, I was very deliberate and careful to include a qualifier. This term (SD, FO, SR, or FC) does not mean a bridge is unsafe: open bridges are safe, and unsafe bridges are closed. That last part might seem like an oversimplification to detail-oriented engineers, who would rather hear something like, “Open bridges are safe for all legal and unrestricted loads as long as vehicle operators self-enforce any bridge load-posting limits or similar operating restrictions,” but that statement just does not roll off the tongue as easily. Once the chairman was prepared, I left, thinking once again that a change in language was long past due. In late 2013, I interviewed for the position I currently hold at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as director of the Office of Bridges and Structures. During those interviews, I spoke of the need to change or eliminate federally instituted but sometimes confusing, unclear, misleading, and even alarming terms from the language of bridge engineers. Although this language has served the bridge community well for decades, I recognized that the common usage of these terms differ significantly from the technical definitions, and therefore they do not translate well outside the discipline. In early 2014, I was fortunate to be selected to serve as director and be given the authority to change the terminology. Revising the language would not have been possible without the enactment of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) in 2012. MAP-21 reduced the number of core programs that fund the Federalaid Highway Program from 17 to 4. In doing so, the need to determine the status of a bridge (SD, FO, or not deficient) or its SR to establish funding eligibility ended. Soon after MAP-21 became law, I started speaking within the FHWA about the possibility of making changes, and, in 2014, I raised the topic externally at the meeting of American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO's) Committee on Bridges and Structures (CBS), formerly known as SCOBS (Subcommittee on Bridges and Structures). What was a SD bridge? Before MAP-21, a highway bridge could have one of three status classifications: not deficient, FO, or SD. Bridges and bridge-sized

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