I have one of those "fish or fowl" questions. Many of you here, such as Stan
Caldwell, may be familiar with the Texas Department of Transportation's
BRINSAP (Bridge Inventory, Inspection, and Appraisal Program). Certainly
other states have similar programs.
I am not intimately familiar with bridge inspection procedures save in a
cursory way, but I am familiar with "inspection" of existing structures to
ascertain their state, their susceptibility to remedy if needed, and other
subjective criteria related to structural function.
I have a client prospect who wants a proposal on inspection of some bridges
that they have on their own, private facility. It is a not-for-profit
foundation, which owns a considerable amount of ranchland which is used
mostly for public education purposes.
They have some timber bridges of varying ages ranging from five years to
twenty years. They were apparently designed by the county, and the
foundation paid for construction. At the time of their design they were
"guaranteed" to handle a specified load, although the means for establishing
that criteria were apparently never communicated. The county apparently
maintains the bridges, however that is defined (we didn't get into that in
>From time to time it is desirable that large vehicles, such as tour buses,
be permitted access to these bridges. When this happens, the question
invariably arises: "Will this bridge handle this bus?" This question is not
impertinent since the original timber materials of construction do appear
under casual inspection to be questionable. In fact, the deck of one of the
older bridges was recently replaced, and even some of the newer bridges look
as though the deck could use replacement, at least in part.
Some of the other visible components such as timber piling at the abutments
appear to need inspection and evaluation as well.
My question is this: Is there any legal reason, under state or federal
statutes, why a formal bridge inspection routine such as that provided by
BRINSAP or similar Federally-mandated, state-funded programs MUST be
utilized in such a case?
The reason I have a question in my mind about it is because the county is
involved. At least in Texas, the counties follow the guidelines set down by
the state DOT, and so county bridges, whether or not they are built or
maintained by federal matching funds, are also under the aegis of the
These aren't county bridges. But they are county "maintained". Is it a
question solely of where the money comes from for that "maintenance" (I have
not yet determined this).
I'd like some thoughts on this, and would particularly welcome hearing from
any who have dealt with bridge or transportation structures on private land.
William L. Polhemus, Jr., P.E.
Polhemus Engineering Company
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