Three Online Courses to Help You Preserve Your Bridges
More than 40 percent of the Nation’s bridge inventory is approaching the end of its design service life. Travel demands are increasing exponentially, and highway infrastructure needs often outpace investment levels. Effective preservation strategies and techniques are essential to keep U.S. bridges in good repair, but bridge owners and preservationists need to be able to make cost-effective decisions to meet these challenges.
To assist the bridge community with preservation activities, the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Bridges and Structures partnered with the National Highway Institute (NHI) to develop a new Web-based training series. The series consists of three courses--Bridge Preservation Fundamentals, Establishing a Bridge Preservation Program, and Communication Strategies for Bridge Preservation--for a total of 12 hours of instruction.
Providing a Foundation of Knowledge
The first course in the series, Bridge Preservation Fundamentals (130106A), provides key strategies that help participants plan and implement their own preservation programs successfully. Participants are introduced to foundational terminology, definitions, and categories of bridge actions. The course underscores the benefits of timely preservation actions, such as cleaning and waterproofing bridge elements. It also presents the consequences of deferred maintenance, which can include having to replace the bridge before the end of its design life. The training focuses on the preservation of bridge decks, superstructures, substructures, and culverts and illustrates cost-effective activities. Instructors encourage participants to adopt a proactive--planned and well-balanced--approach to their bridge programs, as opposed to the current reactive (“worst first”) approach.
The second course, Establishing a Bridge Preservation Program (130106B), outlines the steps involved in developing effective preservation programs. Those steps include setting measurable goals and objectives, conducting condition and needs assessments, forecasting budgets and resource allocations, and developing and monitoring work plans. Participants review the ways data can inform a bridge preservation strategy, including the impact of constrained budgets and resource allocation on the overall health of the bridge inventory. The course prepares participants to plan preservation programs of their own and monitor their outcomes.
Messaging Strategies for Stakeholders and the Public
The final course in the series, Communication Strategies for Bridge Preservation (130106C), teaches participants how to communicate to stakeholders and the public the details of a preservation program effectively, including its value, benefits, and investment needs. This course focuses on identifying and segmenting key audiences and crafting informative and motivating messages.
“Understanding what is important to customers and stakeholders and their preferred communication methods is essential in developing strategies to motivate them to action,” says Anwar Ahmad, a technical panel lead for the Bridge Preservation series and the manager of the Structures Technical Services Team in FHWA’s Resource Center. “Knowing whether your customers prefer to communicate through email, over the telephone, or through social media will help you connect with them more efficiently.”
In the course, the process of message development is broken down into steps. Participants learn strategies for effectively delivering the message to the desired target audience and common mistakes to avoid. The course also covers the power of simple preservation campaign slogans to draw attention to the cause and set the stage for a compelling preservation story. Finally, the course identifies techniques and strategies for effective marketing research, and reviews trusted methods that transportation agencies use to collect feedback.
NHI recommends the Bridge Preservation series for individuals involved in the development and delivery of a preservation program, those with general knowledge and skills in the area of bridge maintenance and management, and others involved in communications with highway infrastructure stakeholders or the public. Each Web-based training costs $50 per person and provides continuing education units. Successful completion of the full series earns 1.2 continuing education units.
To learn more about these courses or to enroll, visit www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov.
Judy Francis is a contractor for NHI.