News - Advancing Bridge Safety and Serviceability: Scanning the Globe for Success

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Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories

Advancing Bridge Safety and Serviceability: Scanning the Globe for Success

The Federal Highway Agency (FHWA) has published the report of its 2009 scanning tour of Europe.  The scanning team team visited to gather information on safety and serviceability practices and technologies related to the design, construction, maintenance, and management of bridges.


The tour aimed to bring back best practices and emerging technologies for implementation in the United States. Sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in cooperation with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, the tour featured an 11-member team representing FHWA, State departments of transportation, academia, and structural engineering design consultants.

The tour included visits to BASt (Germany) and LCPC (France) together with inputs from our experts from AIT (Austria) and TCD (Ireland). 

The scanning tour team has made the following recommendations for consideration by transportation agencies in the United States:

  • Develop a strategy for promoting and increasing the use of refined analysis for design and evaluation.
  • Use refined analysis for evaluation in combination with reliability analysis as a measure to avoid unnecessary rehabilitation or replacement of bridge structures.
  • Adopt the concept of annual probability of failure to quantify safety in probability-based design and rating specifications.
  • Conduct research related to systematically introducing increased levels of sophistication in analysis and load models.
  • Periodically and routinely assess traffic highway loading to ensure that the AASHTO LRFD Specifications design load model adequately provides for bridge safety and serviceability for a 75-year service life or greater.
  • Develop an overweight permit design vehicle for the Strength II load combination, which is the load combination for special permit truck loads during the design of a bridge.
  • Develop and maintain a database that documents bridge failures around the world and provides detailed information on the causes of the failures.
  • Continue efforts to develop guidelines and training on the proper use of nondestructive evaluation techniques to detect corrosion and breakage of cables on cable-supported bridges, strands of pretensioned girders, and internal and external tendons of post-tensioned girders.
  • Explore the use of "Independent Check Engineering" and "Check Engineer Certification" to augment existing quality control and quality assurance of bridge designs.
  • Investigate and implement best practices and emerging technologies identified during the scan, such as developing guidance on the use of waterproofing membranes and developing an integrated bridge asset management process.

In support of these recommendations, FHWA is currently developing a one-day training course on the use of refined analysis for bridge analysis and design.

To download a copy of the scanning tour report, Assuring Bridge Safety and Serviceability in Europe (Pub. No. FHWA-PL-10-014), visit


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