By Douglas Fredericks, PE, Structures Lead at Psomas
Maintaining your infrastructure is a big job, but help is available. Implementing a Bridge Preventive Maintenance Plan will extend the life of your bridges and qualifying culverts, and the work will be largely federally funded.
Some of the main obstacles to agencies applying for the program are low staffing levels, heavy staff workload, fear of paperwork, etc. But most agencies find that the benefits are more than worth it.
The purpose of the Bridge Preventive Maintenance Plan (BPMP) is to extend the life of the nation’s bridges by identifying and performing qualifying maintenance activities approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that are considered preventive maintenance.
Under the BPMP program, local agencies can receive 90 percent funding to perform certain pre-approved preventive maintenance activities to prolong the life of their bridges. All bridges with spans more than 20 feet are eligible. The goal of this program is to correct minor structural defects early to extend the life of bridges. Allowing deficiencies to worsen over time accelerates the need for full replacement, which is far more expensive, time consuming and disruptive to communities.
The following types of repairs are commonly done under the program:
- Deck treatments
- Deck asphalt replacement
- Repairing, restoring, or strengthening of major structural elements
- Retrofit of fatigue-prone steel girders
- Replacement of deteriorated bridge railing
- Repair of exposed bridge supports
- Spot painting of steel elements
- Other work that can be shown to improve the life of the bridge
The process starts with making sure your files are up-to-date with the latest bridge inspection reports, because the inspection coding system directly relates to the type of work the program will fund. Coordinate the work with your state DOT’s local assistance office, which can help you create the plan.
Of course, you may have some bridges that are beyond just maintenance needs, so the FHWA maintains the Highway Bridge Program. The purpose of this program is to replace or rehabilitate public highway bridges when the state and/or the Federal Highway Administration determines that a bridge is significantly important and no longer functions in the needed capacity (deemed functionally obsolete or structurally deficient).
Ultimately, the goal of preventive maintenance is to keep those very expensive replacement projects as far in the future as possible.