Barry B. LePatner TOO BIG TO FALL America's failing infrastructure and the way forward
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Chapter 5: The Technological Imperative

“Bridges are complex machines that must respond to changes in age, loading, and environmental conditions, and there is a significant contrast between the amount of technology used to design and build them and that used to maintain them.”
—p. 134

“It is the general consensus within the engineering community that visual inspection practices must be supported by rigorous training, certification and quality assurance programs, and supplemented with testing techniques to ensure reliable results.”
—p. 141

“Technology for bridge monitoring fulfills two purposes. First, it links electronic sensors with data management systems to provide information about the condition of bridges in real time. Second, it permits inspectors to overcome visual limitations and provides information about latent conditions that will, as a bridge ages, become progressively more severe. Without technology to achieve these two goals, it is impossible for bridge inspectors to know whether exceptional stresses are affecting the structural integrity of a particular bridge. Had monitoring devices been in place on the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis as the redecking project was proceeding in the summer of 2007, warning signals would have triggered a halt to the loading of construction materials onto the deck well before the bridge collapsed.”
—p. 145

“Despite the overwhelming likelihood that engineering consultant firms are well aware of the ongoing deterioration of a state’s bridges, or that there is little or no money in the transportation budget to accommodate the introduction of technology to provide better bridge assessments, few consultants are willing to risk censure by recommending that a bridge be closed or to fight for funds for technology that are unlikely to be made available from politicians and managers with other agendas.”
—p. 152


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Bridges
Chapter 2: Following the Money: Road and Bridge Funding and the Maintenance Deficit
Chapter 3: No Sense of Urgency: The Politics and Culture of Road and Bridge Maintenance
Chapter 4: Finding the Money
Chapter 5: The Technological Imperative
Chapter 6: The Way Forward