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U.S. Transportation Secretary Mineta Announces Initiative to Develop First-Ever National Tunnel Management System

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Norman Y. Mineta

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mineta Announces Initiative to Develop First-Ever National Tunnel Management System

Federal Highway Administration
July 3, 2001

Tuesday, July 3, 2001
Contact: Jim Pinkelman
Tel.: 202-366-0660
FHWA 26-01

FHWA, FTA to Produce Inventory, Guidance for Inspection, Maintenance

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today announced a U.S. Department of Transportation initiative to develop a tunnel management system for the nation’s highway and transit tunnels.

“Safety is President Bush’s highest transportation priority. A systematic framework and analytical tools to manage America's highway and transit tunnels better will help to afford safety and mobility for motorists,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said. “By working together within the department to develop the system, we will maximize service and efficiency for those who stand to benefit from the information. ”

The department’s Federal Highway and Transit Administrations (FHWA and FTA) are joining together in efforts to focus on this critical but often overlooked segment of America’s transportation network. The first-ever Tunnel Management System (TMS) will be a comprehensive effort to produce a complete inventory of the nation’s highway and transit tunnels, lay out procedures for proper inspection and record-keeping, and provide guidance for proper maintenance and rehabilitation techniques to help ensure safe and efficient tunnels in the future.

The two transportation department agencies are developing the system in conjunction with Gannett Fleming, Inc., an engineering and planning firm. The system is scheduled to be completed in 2002.

The comprehensive system will be published in a guide that will include:

  • A complete inventory of tunnels in the United States, the first time such an inventory has ever been completed;
  • An historical file for construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation activities and the cost of repairs for tunnels;
  • Inspection and record keeping procedures for tunnels;
  • Maintenance and rehabilitation techniques for tunnels;
  • Analyses for prioritization of repairs;
  • Design of managerial reports for future needs; and
  • Procedures for integrating tunnels into asset management.

    Some tunnel owners and operators, such as states, cities and other organizations, have developed tunnel management systems, but no national guidance now exists. Most guideline materials, handbooks, and procedural manuals for inspection of tunnels have been developed by individual agencies. For example, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which manages the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, has a tunnel management program. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s new tunnel management guide, however, will assemble the best practices from all available sources.

    “We can’t simply design and build tunnels and expect them to take care of themselves,” FHWA Deputy Executive Director Vincent F. Schimmoller said. “Because TMS will be made available to all highway and transit agencies, owners and operators, it will become an invaluable tool in maintaining and preserving our nation’s tunnel assets.”

    In the asset management process, all physical assets, such as tunnels, with all their individual components are routinely examined and analyzed. The first step is to collect fundamental data that includes an inventory and to inspect the condition of all of the elements. The second step is to develop data on the future condition and life cycle of each asset. In the third step, analysts use life-cycle cost data to evaluate various treatments and strategies. In the fourth step, decision-makers establish the program for maintenance activities and capital improvement projects. The fifth step is to implement the approved program. The final step is to monitor performance and feed that information back into the system, updating the process on an annual basis.

    The nation’s existing infrastructure includes some 400 highway-related tunnels of various lengths distributed over 35 states, and 655 miles of transit tunnels throughout the country. The bulk of tunnel construction occurred during certain periods of time. At the turn of the 20th century, the New York and Boston transit systems were constructed; in the 1930s, tunnel ventilation technology was developed; and in the 1960s and 1970s, the Interstate system was constructed and new transit systems were built in cities like San Francisco, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas and Baltimore.

    FTA Acting Deputy Administrator Hiram Walker said that the nation’s highway and transit tunnels have performed well and are safe, but they are beginning to show their age. A recent FTA report, for example, rated the condition of 28 percent of transit underground structures as “substandard” or “poor.” As many tunnel components reach the end of their service life, deferred or neglected maintenance can exacerbate their condition. TMS is intended to help owners and operators identify potential problem areas within their tunnels, such as damage caused by groundwater, and to conduct critical maintenance activities such as those related to ventilation systems.

    “Using a ONE DOT approach, we will build upon this research with further assessments and development of future best-tunnel-management programs,” Walker said. “We are developing powerful tools and management systems that best address the issues faced by tunnel owners and operators.”

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