Infrastructure Danger Looms
Current infrastructure inspection methods are archaic, to say the least. To add insult to injury inspections are typically the first for their budgets to be set aside. If state or federal budgets are tightened or if there is a potential to divert those funds for other uses rest assured they will be diverted.
The problem is 2 fold misappropriating budgets for inspections that are so badly needed and second even if those budgets are utilized the current antiquated inspections methods that are currently utilized would make most common folk laugh if they were told how they were done. Let’s try.
Chain Dragging(Current Method)
Dragging a chain across a bridge deck to listen for changes in the sound to determine if there is delamination or issues with the bridge deck.
Cable Stay Visual Inspection (current)
On cable-stayed bridges, we still close the lane to traffic, and park a “crash truck” and a bucket truck to send a man up at height to inspect the cable.
In some cases, Sprat climbers are used to repelling down. Sounds risky, dangerous and what are they really inspecting? In many cases just the HDPE sheathing that surrounds the steel that is holding up the bridge while you sit in traffic.
What good is that you may ask and I’ll let you answer that for yourself.
Transportation infrastructure asset managers have the responsibility and a fiduciary duty to do what is in the public interest since it is their tax dollars being spent and safety on the line. That fiduciary duty should be to update inspections to keep our infrastructure and traveling public safe, even if those updates were made every 2 or 5 years.
That we are still conducting inspections that were done the same way 50 years ago should cause concern and the reason is obvious. When was the last time an asset manager was fired when a pedestrian drove into a crash truck or when a car drove into a giant crack in the road?
Here is a replacement for dragging a chain across a bridge deck.
What are the options? For bridge decks, there is a product called BridgeScan, BridgeScan®
Here is a solution for inspecting cable-stayed bridges CableScan® Peers through the sheathing to locate loss of metallic area and corrosion.
Responsibility and financial accounting for public infrastructure are so spread out with so many layers that it is hard to determine who is responsible. Responsible for 1 understanding the infrastructure’s current condition and 2 responsible if something goes wrong.
The Department of transportation can utilize a consultant or asset manager who will hire an engineering firm. The engineering firm may contract with smaller engineering firms that specialize. If something goes wrong, who is responsible. Where is that quantitative date received by all of the parties? Was there a better way to conduct the inspections?
You can be sure that if someone was responsible they would not be sending someone up in a bucket truck to inspect the sheathing that surrounds the steel that holds up the bridge. Especially when there is technology today to inspect that steel and monitor its deterioration progression.
It is true that in recent years we have heard about the use of drones and structural health monitoring. Drones enable us to visually review parts of a structure that we could not easily get to before. As a tool it is not used often enough and yet as much as it is a better solution than doing nothing, it still cannot provide much more useable data, than visuals. Structural health monitoring is another method being employed. Structural health monitoring has come a long way in recent years and yet in most cases will only provide data after it is too late.
In the case of NBI (National Bridge Inventory) inspections that are conducted every 2 years on over 650,000 bridges, the option should be clear. Update inspections to utilize technology to receive quantitative data that can help better budget for maintenance and repairs to keep our infrastructure and traveling public safer today. At least understand what is wrong with these structures and how severe these issues are today to properly maintain them. This will not only save billions in a catastrophic collapse but help safely extend the service life of infrastructure assets worldwide.
Infraspect is a Nondestructive Testing and robotic engineering company that specializes in conducting robotic non-destructive testing inspections utilizing the latest in technology and software to provide the stakeholders the quantitative data so badly needed to better budget for maintenance and repairs.
Utilizing robotic nondestructive testing can safely extend the service life of critical infrastructure worldwide.
Infraspect is one company leading the way in this field. Utilizing proven non-destructive testing technologies like magnetic flux leakage, specialized software and robotics can safely extend the service life of critical infrastructures. Even though this technology exists how do we get the beaurocracy, stakeholders, and responsible parties to just make common sense inspections on a regular basis.
On a government level is it the federal government’s responsibility, the asset manager, engineering firm NDT company, or the DOT’s district head. Certainly, it appears that the work is spread around enough so that no one has to take responsibility and yet there are laws in place that make it the responsibility of each and every government employee to conduct themselves in the public’s best interest. Isn’t a safe infrastructure for the public and all in our best interest?
A States central office has a bridge management department, each state has multiple DOT districts or managers responsible for certain areas of that state, these district heads can approve or disapprove of any inspection methods being utilized. They can even cancel any contract if it is in the public interest to do so, or they can do nothing and continue using 50-100-year-old manual inspections.
The safety of our traveling public is at stake. Our infrastructure and ability to get to work on time and get goods to ports and stores can either make a country’s economy or break it.