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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - January/February 2011

January/February 2011
Issue No:
Vol. 74 No. 4
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Training Update

The National Highway Institute (NHI)

by Lilly Pinto

901 N. Stuart Street, Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22203

Instruction for Bridge Inspectors Improved

As the Nation's bridges age and experience increased use from year to year, the need to improve and maintain them becomes more critical. A key component to ensuring that bridges remain safe and functional is a properly trained workforce of bridge inspectors.

To ensure that the workforce meets the Federal requirements and stays up to date on the latest practices, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and National Highway Institute (NHI) continually develop and refresh course content. The recent introduction of a course titled Fracture Critical Inspection Techniques for Steel Bridges (FHWA-NHI-130078) is an example of how NHI strives to incorporate current practices and emerging technologies for bridge inspectors.

Fracture Critical Inspection Techniques for Steel Bridges is an important course because "the consequences of failure of a fracture critical member [of a bridge] are potentially very severe," says Thomas Everett, team leader of the Bridge Programs Team in FHWA's Office of Bridge Technology. "It is important that inspectors have the skills needed to identify fracture critical members and recognize problems before they become a safety concern."

Fracture Critical Inspection Techniques for Steel Bridges

Fracture Critical Inspection Techniques for Steel Bridges is a 3.5-day course that focuses on popular types of nondestructive testing (NDT) equipment -- equipment used for in-place examination of material for structural integrity without damaging the material -- and a case study of a bridge inspection plan. The first day of training provides an overview of NDT methods and an introduction to fracture critical members, which are bridge components that are subject to stress and potentially could lead to failure of the structure. The second day features demonstrations of various NDT techniques such as dye penetrant, magnetic particle, ultrasonics, and eddy current, and hands-on training sessions. Days three and four focus on inspection procedures and reporting on common fracture critical members, as well as a case study detailing the preparation of an inspection plan for a fracture critical bridge.

"This training will help inspectors evaluate bridges more thoroughly and will provide them with additional knowledge of how structures work and what can happen when they don't work," says Bill Drosehn, district bridge inspection engineer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which hosted the pilot session of this course.

The course is geared toward public and private sector bridge inspectors, supervisors, project engineers, maintenance engineers, shop inspectors, shop foreman, and others responsible for shop fabrication and field inspection of fracture critical steel bridge members. All participants should have prior field experience in bridge inspection and possess a thorough understanding of bridge mechanics and safety inspection procedures. Participants who do not meet the prerequisites can take an introductory course, Safety Inspection of In-Service Bridges (FHWA-NHI-130055).

New and Updated Bridge Inspection Courses

NHI recently released several other new or updated courses that offer training on current inspection techniques and practices.

Bridge Inspection Refresher Training (FHWA-NHI-130053A). This 3.5-day course, designed to refresh the skills of practicing bridge inspectors, is based on the Bridge Inspector's Reference Manual (FHWA-NHI-03-001) and offers additional topics, such as fiber reinforced plastic, inspection of truss gusset plates, structure inventory and appraisal overview, and common National Bridge Inventory miscodings.

Safety Inspection of In-Service Bridges (FHWA-NHI-130055). This 2-week course, also based on the Bridge Inspector's Reference Manual, provides training on the safety inspection of in-service highway bridges. The session covers the advantages and disadvantages of material inspection equipment and component- and element-level data rating. Once completed successfully, this course can fulfill the training requirements of the National Bridge Inspection Standards.

Underwater Bridge Repair, Rehabilitation, and Countermeasures (FHWA-NHI-30091A). This 2-day course provides training on techniques for selecting and executing repairs to bridge elements that are underwater. The primary goal is to enable design engineers to select, design, and specify appropriate and durable repairs to submerged bridge elements.

A bridge inspector conducts ultrasonic tests on a steel bridge.

Lilly Pinto is a contractor for NHI.