Assessment of FHWA Oversight of the Highway Bridge Program and National Bridge Inspection Program
On January 14th, we issued our report on FHWA's oversight of the Highway Bridge Program (HBP) and National Bridge Inspection Program (NBIP). We assessed FHWA’s: (1) oversight of Federal-aid funds provided to states through the HBP for deficient bridges; and (2) enforcement of bridge inspection standards under the NBIP. This report concludes our audit work announced in August 2007 related to FHWA’s oversight of the Nation’s bridges.
We found that FHWA lacks sufficient data to evaluate states’ use of HBP funds because the agency is unable to link expenditures of HBP funds to improvements made to deficient bridges. In addition, the agency lacks the criteria and guidance necessary to determine whether states demonstrate overall compliance with bridge inspection standards under the NBIP.
We made the following specific recommendations to the Federal Highway Administrator to address these weaknesses:
1. Collect and analyze HBP expenditure data on a regular basis to identify activities undertaken by states, such as bridge replacement and rehabilitation, to improve the condition of the Nation’s deficient bridges;
2. Collaborate with states in setting quantifiable performance targets to measure progress in improving the condition of deficient bridges;
3. Report regularly to internal and external stakeholders on the effectiveness of states’ efforts to improve the condition of the Nation’s deficient bridges based on the analysis of HBP expenditure data and an evaluation of progress made in achieving performance targets;
4. Develop detailed criteria to help bridge engineers determine with greater consistency whether states demonstrate overall compliance with the NBIS;
5. Develop a policy providing clear, comprehensive, risk-based guidance that defines procedures Division Offices should follow to enforce compliance with the NBIS; and
6. Conduct a workforce assessment so that FHWA can identify strategic needs and target limited funding to higher priority staffing and training needs in implementing data-driven, risk-based bridge oversight.
The FHWA Administrator concurred and has provided plans to take action to implement them.