Our nation's bridges are getting older. Many of our bridge spans have an average age of thirty-nine years. Ratings for bridge safetyare declining quickly, a big threat to driving safety.
Rules for inspecting bridges are clear. Every bridge in the United States should undergo an inspection every other year, but bridge inspections are not proceeding quickly. This is largely the result of the large quantity of bridges, old and new, in combination with massively waning local road budgets. Clearly, as more bridges and overpasses are built the funding and work crews needed to maintain them likewise increases.
While the need for new bridges increases is sorely needed, bridge inspectors need to contend with the inevitable repairs of our current bridges prior to evaluating new bridge construction.
Among the most serious problems with bridge checkup is gaining access to the bridge in a safe manner. This is generally done with a variety of the snooper truck, designed to hoist inspectors to difficult points of complex bridge structures. But the snooper truck is not the only viable snooper equipment available.
Advances in bridge technology might be paving the way in coming years to make bridge inspection safer, less costly and much more thorough than in the past.
Bridges that could not have been accessed in the past without unsafe lane closings or costly personnel will now go through inspection in a matter of days. These new technologies permit inspectors to inspect bridges without disturbing the environment or putting wildlife in danger. As the expense of bridge inspections come down while technology is more prevalent, our bridge structures will get the repairs they need to hold up well into the next century.