Federal Government Mandates that Municipalities Inspect Bridges

March 2009 – Under the National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS), which became effective on January 13, 2005, all bridges in the National Bridge Inventory must be assigned a qualified Program Manager, and a Program Manager or Team Leader is required to inspect the bridges to evaluate compliance with NBIS. Illinois imposed a February 29, 2008 deadline for providing the name of the approved Program Manager to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Bureau of Local Roads and Streets. 

However, according to IDOT, approximately half of municipalities with qualifying structures have not yet provided that information to IDOT. The Federal Highway Administration is considering sanctions against state and local agencies in Illinois for non-compliance with the NBIS. Discussion of such penalties have included withholding funding from all state and local agencies projects in that county, not simply from the non-complying agency.

In response, in part, to the I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota in 2007, and to further evaluation of the nation’s infrastructure, it is even more vital that our bridges be regularly inspected for safety and suitability.

Experts have compared bridge health to human health. Early in life, we focus more attention on a bridge’s health to make sure it is functioning correctly, just as we do with infants. As bridges age, they are inspected at longer intervals through the prime of life. While wear and tear may be repaired along the way, bridges deteriorate at different rates depending on a number of factors. Good maintenance and assignment of a “doctor” who has personal knowledge of that bridge and its long-term health will help prolong the life of the bridge.

If your county or municipality has not yet selected a qualified Program Manager, TWM could be of help. We have four licensed Structural Engineers, two of whom are certified as Program Managers through IDOT.