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New FHWA Facility Will Aid Highway Bridge Safety

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

New FHWA Facility Will Aid Highway Bridge Safety

Federal Highway Administration
October 15, 1998

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 15, 1998
Contact: Virginia Miller
Tel: (202) 366-0660
FHWA 48-98

Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater said that a new Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) facility, which has its grand opening today, will provide more accurate and complete information about the condition of the nation’s highway bridges.

FHWA’s Nondestructive Evaluation Validation Center, which was initiated by congressional funding in 1996, is the only center in the world dedicated entirely to the evaluation and validation of nondestructive evaluation (NDE) technologies for highway infrastructure. The work of the center will result in a higher level of safety for the traveling public and reduced maintenance cost for the taxpayer while ensuring a safe and efficient highway system to promote economic growth and trade.

"Safety is President Clinton’s highest transportation priority, and this center is a perfect example of his vision of using technological innovations to help create a 21st century transportation system for America that is the safest and most efficient in the world," Secretary Slater said. "This center highlights FHWA’s unique capabilities and resources to provide technical leadership in the construction and maintenance of highway infrastructure."

Today, inspection based on visible indications of deterioration and distress is the most common way to determine a bridge’s condition and safety. Deterioration that does not manifest some visible symptom is not detected or quantified. However, a number of NDE technologies — such as infrared thermographic imaging, ground-penetrating radar imaging, laser-radar scanning, acoustic emission monitors, electromagnetic acoustic transducers, embedded corrosion microsensors and laser vibrometers — are being tested and used to effectively and efficiently collect quantitative data about bridge conditions.

The NDE laboratory, located at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Va., provides a modern and fully equipped NDE testing facility. In addition, test bridges in Virginia and Pennsylvania have been made available for full-scale testing of NDE technologies under actual field conditions. The center will also acquire a wide variety of specimens from highway bridges that contain typical defects.

The center’s tests and experiments will fully assess and validate the capabilities of new and existing inspection systems and methods. By examining the reliability of NDE technologies, the center will help define the limits of application for the technologies and improve our ability of assess the condition of the nation’s infrastructure.

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