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Spanning the state divide

Article image - Spanning the state divide
A recent review of bridge inspection manuals by infrastructure consultants pitt&sherry uncovered results that could pave the way for future improvements in bridge inspection methodologies.

pitt&sherry have conducted extensive work in the area of bridge construction and maintenance across Australia and have found a number of variations in how bridges are assessed, leading to the development of the study.

The report, Australian Bridge Inspection Processes, was presented by Andrew Sonnenberg, Bridge Engineering Manager, pitt&sherry, at the recent Australian Small Bridges Conference held in November 2012.

“The key points of difference between the three major states’ bridge inspection manuals were the types of structures assessed; frequency of inspections; the scope of the inspection; and also how data is collected,” said Andrew.

“We felt it was important for the various authorities involved in bridge inspections to learn from methodologies used elsewhere to establish a best practice protocol. By doing that, risk can be better managed,” he added.

The utilisation of a uniform approach is particularly useful for allocating funding at a federal level, where data is required for projects across many states.
With a uniform data collection system and standardised definitions and reporting, the task of assessing a bridge for maintenance works is free from ambiguity, particularly for Level two and three inspections.

The improvements to inspection manuals that are recommended in the report include: electronic collection of data, uniform guidance statements and rating of defects, addition of photographs, GPS records, improvements to repair cost estimates, and an assessment of repair work urgency and scheduling of Level three inspections.

Building a consistent database in this format makes it possible to understand bridge deterioration over time. With accurate, reliable data and photographic evidence, bridge inspectors and authorities can determine the urgency of repairs based on the findings of previous inspection reports.

The management of bridges has led pitt&sherry to develop BridgeAsyst™ to provide greater clarity when conducting bridge inspections. The use of this software has enabled the company to provide authorities with the necessary reports to quickly and effectively assess bridge risk, required works and subsequent costing.

The company was recently engaged to assist VicRoads in updating and revising their inspection manuals to improve reporting methodology and practices.

“There has been a push across Australia to develop a more uniform approach to bridge inspection, not only to give greater clarity in bridge repair and maintenance but also enabling greater productivity for inspectors and assessors,” said Andrew.

“Every bridge authority can benefit from adopting a more uniform approach.”