In order to maintain the safety and security of their nationwide bridge infrastructure, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) needed to inspect and document the condition of more than 700 bridges located in 46 States and Puerto Rico.
Bridges provide access to both visitors and staff and are vital to the mission of Wildlife Refuges: “to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.” In addition, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requires that public bridges be inspected every two years and reported by their owners to the FHWA.
Bridge inspection reports must ensure safe bridges and fulfill the FHWA requirements, but must also assist the USFWS in allocating their funding where it is most urgently needed.
USFWS sought the expertise of SEH to develop a nationwide inspection program. Since 1997, SEH staff have conducted bridge safety inspections for the USFWS that includes field investigations, load ratings, and preparation of inventory and inspection reports.
Over that period, SEH inspectors have completed more than 6,800 bridge inspections amassing a great deal of knowledge of the needs of the USFWS. In order to thoroughly examine the entire inventory, inspectors had to develop highly effective schedule. Reports were prepared with information presented in a format easily understood by a primarily non-engineering audience.
Based on the insights that inspectors gleaned from the bridge assessments, SEH recommended repair, maintenance and rehabilitation upgrades to bring bridges up to USFWS and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Official (AASHTO) standards. The recommendations take into account both the likelihood and severity of not performing upgrades, which helps USFWS prioritize their funding where it will have the greatest impact.
Additional inspection services undertaken by the SEH team included updating bridge sketches, measuring waterway openings, digital photography, analyzing the potential for scour from stream flows, determining bridge GPS location, and documentation of structure condition assessment via non-destructive testing.
The team’s reports included an evaluation of each bridge’s structural members and supports with data consistent with National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS). The reports also included recommendations for load restriction signage at each bridge location based on the bridge load ratings. All requisite data was also uploaded into the USFWS Bridge Inspection Management (BIMS) website, as well as submitted to the FHWA.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Nationwide Bridge Inspection Program
Throughout the United States
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Division of Engineering