No longer ranked

California knocks bridges off the FHWA SD list

Bill Wilson / September 07, 2017
California I-110

It was all cracks . . . not a breakthrough. There was nothing uncovered about the top seven bridges on the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) Most Traveled U.S. Structurally Deficient Bridges, 2016, list. Nor did it require any real innovation to remedy.

The bridge decks on all seven spans—six on I-110, one on S.R. 110—which carry an average of over 240,000 motorists a day, were cracking. A series of quick fixes in 2016 totalling $536,000 officially removed them from the most vulnerable SD group in the country.

“In the case of the I-110 bridges, not a single one had any significant issue other than the decks were cracking, which is very common in concrete,” Rita Gerlach, bridge maintenance information manager, Structure Maintenance and Investigations, for Caltrans, told Roads & Bridges. “High traffic volumes will exacerbate cracking that is inherent to concrete. For most of these bridges, the deck treatments sealed the cracks. Redondo Beach Blvd. required more extensive deck repair work and a concrete polyester overlay was applied.”

One of the largest project in terms of money—$121,179—was the I-110 over Redondo Beach Blvd. project, which also involved an overlay. The reinforced concrete box girder bridge was widened in 1982 and 1991. T-beams and slabs were used in the widening. I-110 over the Dominguez Channel, which was ranked No. 1 on ARTBA’s Most Traveled Structurally Deficient Bridges list, is a T concrete girder structure. I-110 over Gardena Blvd., I-110 over 168th Street and I-110 over Alondra Blvd. are all reinforced concrete box girder bridges.

The No. 2 bridge on the ARTBA list, S.R. 110 over 1st Street, had deck cracks sealed in October 2016, and the No. 3 bridge, Alvarado Street over Rte. 101, was medicated back in 2014.

“The information contained in the ARTBA report is over a year old and would not have included information on ongoing or planned repair strategies,” said Gerlach.

This should help

California state legislators want the state’s fatigued road and bridge network to be great again. SB 1 was passed back in April 2017 and is expected to generate $5.2 billion annually for road and bridge repairs along with transit projects across the region. The bill raises gas taxes and vehicle fees. The base excise gas tax will go up 12 cents a gallon to 30 cents, and a variable excise tax will be set at 17 cents. The excise tax on diesel fuel will jump to 36 cents a gallon, a 20-cent spike, and the sales tax will raise four percentage points to 9.75%. New taxes will kick in on Nov. 1.

Those owning an electric car will have to pay an annual fee of $100 starting in 2020, and there will be an additional annual vehicle fee depending on the cost of the car or truck. Cars worth $60,000 or more will carry a $175 charge.

“Safe and smooth roads make California a better place to live and strengthen our economy,” said California Gov. Jerry Brown after signing SB 1 into law. “This legislation will put thousands of people to work.”

Early reports indicated some of the increase in cash flow will go towards strengthening bridges on I-5, I-210 and I-710. However, Gerlach said it was simply too early to know exactly where the money will end up. There is a requirement under SB 1 that an additional 500 bridges will be fixed over the next 10 years.

“Our existing programs are still in place and the funding is still in place,” said Gerlach. “So everything we had programmed prior to the enactment of SB 1 . . . all those projects are still moving forward with the existing funding.”

State officials said $34 billion of the first $52 billion will go towards roads, bridges, highways and culverts, half of them on state routes and half on local routes.

According the Gerlach, to reach new performance targets established by the department’s 2017 State Highway System Management Plan, Caltrans has adopted a performance-based approach that will provide greater local flexibility to achieve multiple objectives within a single project.

The plan applies a good/fair/poor standard in evaluating the Caltrans-maintained bridge inventory in terms of deck areas. By 2027, 83.5% of all bridge deck areas, measured in square feet, should be in good condition, according to the plan, with 15% in fair condition and no more than1.5% of all deck areas designated as poor condition.

Changing the terms

After the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis the public became confused over the terms structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. In 2016, the FHWA switched to a scale of good, fair and poor when assessing bridge conditions.

Currently, about 70% of the bridge deck area within the California highway system is rated in good condition, 27% is in fair condition, and just 3% are labeled poor.

About the Author

Wilson is editorial director of Roads & Bridges.

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