Saving $5M by Monitoring Bridges

A new technology put into place by the South Carolina Department of Transportation will likely save more than $5 million on just 8 bridges being monitored

What Happened?
The South Carolina Department of Transportation adopted a bridge monitoring system to cut costs and increase maintenance efficiency. The monitoring technology takes the place of some in-person bridge inspections while gauging the state of transportation infrastructure more accurately.

The Goal
The South Carolina Department of Transportation implemented the bridge monitoring system to reduce the number of in-person inspections and collect real time information on infrastructure stability and maintenance needs. The bridge monitoring system uses Advanced Condition Assessment Technology (ACAT) to help extend the life of transit infrastructure.

With ACAT, sensors monitor bridge conditions and provide transportation departments with valuable data to improve asset management plans. With many cities tightening their bridge maintenance and repair budgets, the monitoring system could cut costs without delaying vital transit projects.

How Does It Work?
In an interview with the Reason Foundation, South Carolina Department of Transportation Bridge Maintenance Engineer Richard Floyd explained how the system uses girder sensors on the bridges to measure the carrying capacity of the infrastructure. The information collected from the sensors are relayed to the state’s computers for 24/7 monitoring and assessment.

While the monitoring system does not take the place of all in-person inspections, the SCDOT has found the sensors are more accurate in determining the strength of the bridge. This means more bridges can wait to be repaired, which will save money and better prioritize projects. The monitoring system provides an up-to-date view of bridge lifespan and how much the infrastructure can handle immediately and in the near future.

Payouts
Since deploying the monitoring system, the SCDOT has reported substantial cost savings. The department was able to retrofit one bridge for $100,000 rather than replacing it for $800,000. An estimated $5 million in savings in the future is expected as a result of more accurate readings on just eight bridges currently being monitored. If just 1% of all 8,000 bridges in the states were equipped with the monitoring system, a predicted $56 million could be saved.

Furthermore, Floyd explained additional benefits of the bridge monitoring system such as:

  • Gauging coastal wind speeds to prepare for hurricane conditions
  • Catch overweight trucks cross a bridge with a weight restriction
  • Replacing keeping an employee on staff to collect bridge data and relay findings to DOT offices

Growing in Popularity
The South Carolina Department of Transportation is not the only state optimizing bridge monitoring technology. The Colorado Department of Transportation has plans to launch a pilot system to monitor the structural behavior of bridges across the state. The monitoring technology will be tested on the bridge over U.S. 24 to gauge the structure’s movements, and relay information back to the DOT in Denver.

The sensors will be used to monitor several characteristics including load capacity and bridge movement. Similar to the SCDOT’s strategy, Colorado aims to use the monitoring system in conjunction with existing inspection practices for increased accuracy. If the technology proves to be accurate and cost-effective, the Colorado Department of Transportation will start to expand implementation to more bridges statewide.

Bridge Protection Plans
EfficientGov has followed bridge maintenance strategies across the country – some involving public-private partnerships, others more focused on eco-friendly materials and construction.
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Barry Greenfield

Barry Greenfield is the founder of EfficientGov.com.