The North Carolina Department of Transportation has transitioned its bridge program into a comprehensive bridge management program that focuses on timely maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement. It also places a greater emphasis on preservation activities to extend the life of bridges and help prevent costly future repairs.
“Our bridges are safe and we are committed to keeping them that way for the ever increasing demands on the highway system,” Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said.
NCDOT is targeting about $20 million a year towards preventative maintenance activities, which include painting structural steel, cleaning bearings, repairing and replacing expansion joints, applying materials that slow corrosion and waterproofing and resurfacing decks and approaches.
Additionally, North Carolina received about $25 million of the $1 billion the U.S. Congress provided earlier this year for bridges nationwide. NCDOT will direct $8 million of its share toward bridge preservation.
Another $12 million of these funds will be used to replace bridges that the department otherwise would not have been able to replace for eight to 10 years. These bridges are eligible for federal funding and will be added to the statewide priority list based mostly on structural condition.
The remaining $5 million will be invested into a comprehensive bridge management system that will help engineers better analyze bridge needs and target existing resources.
The department is also working to improve the process for bridge replacement projects. To help expedite the delivery process and reduce costs, design criteria have been modified on smaller bridges that tend to be on low-traffic secondary routes. The modification involves standardizing bridge designs for these structures, resulting in additional design and construction savings. These changes will have no impact on the safety or legal load carrying capacity of these structures.
Each bridge in North Carolina is inspected at least every two years in accordance with the National Bridge Inspection Standards. Survey teams assess the condition of five elements on each bridge: railings, decks, expansion joints, superstructure and substructure. The condition of the bridge is then summarized into a statewide bridge condition rating, along with the type and extent of repairs needed, if any. A thorough structural analysis is performed and safe load carrying capacities are determined. If necessary, weight restrictions are placed on the bridge.