Building the Bridges of the Future
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is a strong partner and leader in working with State and local agencies to ensure that our Nation's aging bridges remain safe and that new bridges are designed and constructed with the future in mind. Accomplishing this objective is challenging when transportation agencies are faced with shrinking budgets, attrition of experienced engineers, and highways and bridges that are stretched to their limits in capacity and lifespan.
The Administration's new transportation reauthorization package proposes to revise the current highway bridge replacement and rehabilitation legislation to provide greater flexibility so that States and local governments can use bridge funds for systematic preventative maintenance. This change will enable agencies to better implement the recommendations in the bridge management systems. The proposed legislation contains a new initiative called the Long-Term Bridge Performance program. This 20-year effort will provide the data and improved tools for helping States and local communities better manage their bridges. The proposed program holds considerable promise for providing a greater understanding of new materials and techniques under actual field conditions. The Innovative Bridge Research and Construction Program that was funded under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) successfully encouraged the use of high-performance materials and techniques in bridge construction.
Through the new reauthorization, the Administration proposes expanding this program to include the development of new structural systems that last longer and that can be built faster. In addition to changes in legislation, FHWA and the States are working together to look for ways to accelerate the design and construction of projects. Given the numerous technologies available today, we believe that many construction projects need not take as long as they do. Accelerating these projects to reduce construction time from years to months and even days would improve the transportation experience for the motoring public.
FHWA is committed to working with States and the transportation industry to find innovative and sometimes audacious methods of safely accelerating the completion of projects. This acceleration can be accomplished only through a cooperative effort by the entire highway and bridge construction industry. Fostering this cooperation will be one of the FHWA focus areas. In this issue of Public Roads, prefabricated construction, cooperative efforts to restore bridges quickly, and a glimpse of future FHWA research initiatives are highlighted. The articles in this issue bring together many of the ideas that have been discussed over the years and show that construction projects can be built quickly and efficiently, while addressing the concerns of the entire community.
Without a doubt, this is an exciting time to be an engineer! Innovative ideas and technologies are evolving, and FHWA will continue to be a strong partner and leader in innovations that help build and preserve America's bridges and highways for the safety and security of our traveling Nation.
Senior Structural Engineer for
Federal Highway Administration