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Keeping America’s Bridges Safe and Reliable

Each day, thousands of qualified bridge inspectors evaluate the safety and condition of the nation’s bridges. Bridges are inspected on a routine basis, and the results are reported to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). If a bridge is deemed unsafe, immediate action is taken – which could include immediate repairs, weight restrictions or outright closure.    

While state departments of transportation are on the front lines conducting the inspections, FHWA provides the standards and oversees state programs to ensure safety and track bridge conditions nationwide. We know the National Bridge Inspection Program works because bridge conditions are improving nationwide. Notably in the last five years, the number of bridges rated in “poor” condition has steadily declined. We are going in the right direction and expect that to continue.

While safety has always been the priority, FHWA has worked constantly over the years to improve the national program and ensure that bridge inspections continue to be robust.  We’ve developed training and are committed to finding new and better ways of making sure bridges are safe. 

The 10-year anniversary of Minneapolis’ I-35W Bridge collapse is an opportunity to reflect on developments in the industry over the past decade. Though the collapse was due to a design flaw and unrelated to the bridge inspection process or the condition of the bridge, it brought renewed attention to concerns about bridge safety nationwide and furthered dialogue on general infrastructure conditions. 

The tragedy also reaffirmed the transportation community’s commitment to safety – particularly the design, inspection and evaluation of gusset plates and other bridge elements. A key lesson learned is that that bridge engineers and inspectors should pay more attention to gusset plates throughout these various phases. To that end, FHWA and the state departments of transportation have conducted research and implemented the results to enhance the rigors of design, inspection and evaluation of gusset plates.   

In addition, FHWA has implemented new measures to boost its oversight role and to target the inspection of areas critical to bridge safety. We now use a more data-driven approach to more clearly and easily identify bridge inspection issues in each state. The aim was to improve consistency in bridge inspections and simplify efforts to identify challenges state-by-state. We also collect more data than ever – such as data on components of deck rather than the deck as a whole – for a higher-resolution image of bridge conditions nationwide.

It is with a very heavy heart that we say FHWA’s national bridge inspection program is stronger and bridge conditions nationwide are much improved. In no way was the industry nor the traveling public – in Minneapolis or anywhere else – prepared for the collapse of the I-35W Bridge. Prior to August 1, 2007, infrastructure failure like that was inconceivable. Above all else, one thing is clear – FHWA, state departments of transportation and others in the bridge community are working proactively each day to keep bridges safe and reliable and to ensure that a collapse like that never happens again.

AIP Grant Final Rollout

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery byU.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. ChaoAIP Grant Final RolloutThursday, September 27, 2018Thank you, Bailey [Edwards – FAA Administrator of Policy] for that introduction.Thank you all for coming.  Let me give a special shout out to the grant recipients who have come here from all over the country -- from as far as Juneau, Alaska to Rangeley, Maine and points in...

Administration’s Unified Agenda Highlights USDOT’s Pro-Growth, Responsible Policies to Unleash Innovation in the American Economy

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao today highlighted DOT’s pro-growth deregulatory agenda that will spur innovation, speed up infrastructure project delivery, and create more jobs. The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ (OIRA) Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions published today includes DOT’s rulemakings currently under consideration and proposed for future action....

News Digest - DOT 92-17

National Transportation Atlas Database Fall 2017 Update - The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics has released the Fall 2017 update to the National Transportation Atlas Database (NTAD) with three new datasets and 23 updated datasets. The NTAD is a compilation of geospatial datasets representing the nation’s transportation infrastructure, including roadways...

05.15.2017 - Infrastructure Week Kickoff

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao

Infrastructure Week Kickoff

Monday, May 15, 2017


Thank you, Tom [Donahue], for that gracious introduction.And a special thanks to you, and all the other friends of infrastructure, for putting together this series of events all across the country highlighting our infrastructure challenges.As you know so well, infrastructure is the backbone of our world-class...

FHWA Announces Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Guidance

 Deployments Nationwide Can Transform Travel SafetyWASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced new Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) guidance that can improve safety and mobility by accelerating the deployment of V2I communication systems. The guidance complements the Department’s efforts to reduce crashes by advancing (Vehicle-to-Vehicle) V2V communication technology announced in a proposed rule in December.“V2I will...

USDOT Automated Vehicles Activities

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is committed to facilitating a new era of transportation innovation and safety and ensuring that our country remains a leader in automation. USDOT is acting as a convener and facilitator, partnering with a broad coalition of industry, academic, states and local, safety advocacy, and transportation stakeholders to support the safe development, testing, and integration of automated vehicle technologies.

USDOT developed the...