BRIDGE RESCUE: Where transportation is king

Dec. 8, 2014

Infrastructure investments in Florida target a sunny future

Florida continues to invest in its transportation system to ensure that the infrastructure can meet the needs of residents, visitors and businesses.

While Floridians and the nearly 100 million tourists that visit our state each year actually experience this infrastructure, others throughout the nation are likewise taking notice. From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation ranking Florida No. 1 in infrastructure to the Washington Post naming Florida the best state in America for our roads and bridges, it is clear to see that the Sunshine State is leading the way.

Transportation is an important part of Florida’s economy. Realizing this, state government has taken specific steps to aggressively promote and support a multimodal transportation system through funding and statutory authority.

The Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) was established to identify and rank transportation corridors to show where funding would best be spent. Doing this helps prioritize the use of resources where they will have the greatest impact. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) must maintain minimum performance measures for roads and bridges. With regard to bridges, 90% must meet state standards. The current standard for bridges uses the National Bridge Inventory System (NBIS) where a bridge with a minimum element condition rating greater than 6 meets the standard. FDOT’s policy states when a bridge deteriorates to the point where the minimum NBIS element condition rating 4 or less becomes structurally deficient, the deficiency must be addressed either by replacement or repair within six years.

FDOT is a decentralized organization comprised of the central office that generally handles policy and procedure, training, quality assurance and statewide issues, and seven district offices and the Turnpike Enterprise that handle the production and facility operations. The decision to either repair or replace a bridge is generally based on the extent of the deterioration, the projected service of that particular corridor and policy guidelines. This decision is normally the responsibility of the associated district or turnpike office. The District Office of Maintenance, which administers the bridge inspection program and maintains the bridge-management system documentation, is responsible for identifying structurally deficient bridges. The District Production Management would determine whether the bridge should be repaired or replaced. The District Maintenance Office would then be responsible for administering the corrective project. FDOT general policy calls for repair projects to be programmed within two years and replacement projects to be programmed within six years of the current year. A bridge that is classified as structurally deficient is not necessarily unsafe, in Florida if a bridge is unsafe it is immediately closed.

FDOT has other organizational private entities that, while working under FDOT policy guidelines, play a part in the decision process of how to handle structurally deficient bridges. These include asset maintenance contractors that have overall responsibility of maintaining portions of the transportation facility, including bridges. These contractors would have overall responsibility for a group of bridges, including maintenance and repairs, but would not be responsible for bridge replacements. FDOT also utilizes public-private partnerships and quasi-governmental authorities that have complete control of bridge maintenance, repair and replacement based on Florida statutes and FDOT policies.

FDOT takes pride in the fact that Florida’s transportation system is among the best in the country. The Washington Post noted in its recent article that “Florida ranks near the top in nearly every measure of road transportation.”

We understand that this recognition is a testament to all those who seek to identify opportunities to strengthen our infrastructure and prepare to meet increased capacity needs. Moving forward, Florida will reach new heights by investing in transportation for a brighter future. R&B

About The Author: Blanchard is an assistant secretary for engineering and operations for the Florida DOT.

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