Measuring bridge conditions across the country and progress in Michigan

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Coming off the successful return of a cool Michigan tradition, the Mackinac Bridge walk on Labor Day, this week’s podcast revisits the condition of our state’s other bridges and some creative proposals to fund replacement and repair of state and local structures.

First, for some national perspective, a conversation with experts in performance management and bridge conditions at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO): Patricia Bush, AASHTO’s program manager for bridges and design, and Matthew Hardy, AASHTO’s program director for planning and performance management.

Later, Matt Chynoweth, chief bridge engineer at the Michigan Department of Transportation, talks about a pilot bridge bundling program for local agencies. An MDOT dashboard tracks the progress.

Bush explains why terms for bridge conditions, like structurally deficient and functionally obsolete, were abandoned, with discussion now focusing simply on conditions being good, fair or poor. She also talks about the condition of the nation’s bridges, overall, and what goes into decisions to close a bridge. Bush cites the decision to close a Memphis bridge in May after inspectors found a crack in the steel structure.

Hardy explains how performance management informs decisions and why all states must use the national bridge reporting measures. He also lays out the reasons for following asset management principles in making decisions about a transportation network.

Offering a focus on Michigan bridge conditions, Chynoweth explains how a decision two decades ago to focus on asset management has helped conserve resources and address state-owned bridges more efficiently. He also talks about some major bridge projects MDOT engineers are tackling this summer, including a bridge over M-55 near Manistee, which MDOT Director Paul C. Ajegba visited this week.

Podcast photo: MDOT Director Paul Ajegba talks to engineers at the M-55 bridge site near Manistee, Michigan.

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