Bridge Improvements:

States Exercise Discretion in Selecting Projects Using Federal-Aid Funds

RCED-89-8: Published: Oct 26, 1988. Publicly Released: Oct 26, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on six state highway agencies' selections of bridges for replacement and rehabilitation, specifically the: (1) legislative requirements for bridge project selection and the Federal Highway Administration's (FHwA) role in the process; (2) factors that states considered in making bridge project decisions; and (3) levels and sources of state funding for bridge improvement programs.

GAO found that: (1) the Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program legislation did not contain bridge selection criteria for states to use or prescribe a role for FHwA in selecting specific bridge projects; (2) in all of the states reviewed, the transportation officials considered average daily traffic counts and structural integrity when selecting bridge replacement or rehabilitation projects; (3) some states considered the impact of detours on the community and other states considered bridges' remaining useful lives and the need to replace bridge decks; (4) three states had formal systems for evaluating their bridge improvement priorities; (5) FHwA developed a bridge management system to help states rank bridge projects and presented workshops to state agencies to show them how to develop and implement a formal bridge management system; and (6) FHwA believes that states should expand their bridge databases to include truck weight surveys, accidents, maintenance costs, and the effect of maintenance on bridge deterioration rates. GAO also found that: (1) the states varied greatly in the extent to which they supplemented their legislative apportionment in addition to the required 20-percent matching contribution; (2) federal funding for fiscal years 1987 through 1991 totalled $8.15 billion for bridge improvements; (3) state contributions ranged from $5 million to about $70 million; and (4) all of the states generally raised their funds through legislatively authorized bond issues or state gasoline taxes.

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