FHWA Effectively Oversees Bridge Safety, But Opportunities Exist To Enhance Guidance and Address National Risks
There are over 600,000 bridges on public roads that carry, on average, more than 4.6 billion vehicles per day. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) established the National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) to require inspections of public highway bridges, and FHWA oversees States’ efforts to ensure bridges within their jurisdictions are safe. This is the second of two audits undertaken in response to a congressional request that we review FHWA’s efforts to improve bridge safety. We determined that FHWA, through its Division Offices, effectively implemented a data-driven, risk based approach to oversee States’ bridge inspection programs. However, we identified gaps in FHWA guidance—such as how FHWA Division Offices document their reviews of State bridge inspection programs—that could limit long-term success. Although FHWA established the National Bridge Inspection Program Oversight Team (NBIPOT) in 2010 to perform an annual risk assessment of the bridge safety inspection program, we found that the NBIPOT has not completed a formal assessment. FHWA is working to finalize its risk assessment process, but it currently lacks key elements such as specifying how NBIPOT will report on risks, or how FHWA will implement and track corrective actions. FHWA concurred with our five recommendations, which were focused on improving FHWA’s communication and program guidance and its efforts to effectively identify and address high-priority bridge safety risks.