Section 2: Highway Bridge Program

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From the federal funds appropriated to the state, a certain amount is set aside in the UTP under the Highway Bridge Program (Category 6 ON/OFF)for the specific purpose of replacing or rehabilitating structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges on public highways, roads, and streets. The program applies to deficient existing structures of bridge definition and classification that carry highway vehicular traffic. HBP funds can be used on both on-system and off-system bridges.

In administering the HBP, TxDOT typically operates under the definition of “bridge” as provided in Title 23, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 650.403(a). The CFR definition of a bridge is:

...a structure including supports erected over a depression or an obstruction, such as water, highway or railway, and having a track or passageway for carrying traffic or other moving loads, and having an opening measured along the center of the roadway of more than 20 feet between undercopings of abutments or spring lines of arches, or extreme ends of openings for multiple boxes; it may also include multiple pipes where the clear distance between openings is less than half of the smaller contiguous opening.

The CFR definition of a bridge includes multiple pipe structures. However, because multiple pipe structures are usually subject only to gradual and very localized collapse, TxDOT normally does not inventory or include such structures in the bridge inspection database or address them under the HBP unless the multiple pipes are 60 inches or more in diameter and where the clear distance between openings is less than half the smallest pipe diameter.

In appropriating funds to the states, federal law requires that at least 15% of the bridge replacement funds be used on projects located on non-federal-aid highways. Non-federal-aid highways are those classified as local or rural minor collectors within the overall highway functional classification system. Federal-aid highways are those classified as rural major or urban collectors, arterials, urban freeways/expressways or interstate highways. Most but not all on-system routes are classified as federal-aid highways while most but not all off-system routes are classified as non-federal-aid highways. TxDOT allocates the HBP funds between on- and off-system projects in such a way as to assure the 15% minimum requirement for the funding of non-federal-aid highway projects is met.

Projects for the on- and off-system HBP are selected according to eligibility requirements specified by TxDOT and prioritized on a statewide basis by the Bridge Division, which uses data from the bridge inspection database.

The Bridge Division and the Finance Division typically coordinate to prioritize on- and off-system bridge projects into respective work programs to meet available fiscal funding levels. The Texas Transportation Commission approves annual fiscal funding amounts for Category 6 ON/OFF for inclusion in the annual Unified Transportation Program (UTP) update.

The UTP does not normally authorize individual Category 6 ON/OFF or RGS projects, only yearly fiscal funding limits. This allows the Bridge Division additional flexibility in moving eligible projects between years due to plan development issues.

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Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for the Highway Bridge Program, (HBP or Category 6 ON/OFF), a proposed project must be consistent with the intent and purpose of the program as covered in the overview of this section. Existing bridges to be remedied under the program must be classified as deficient (structurally deficient or functionally obsolete). Collectively, bridges that are classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete are simply referred to as being “deficient.” For a deficient-classified bridge, a sufficiency rating then determines if a bridge is eligible for rehabilitation or replacement. The interval of time, generally 10 years, since a structure’s construction or reconstruction or rehabilitation, and the type of structure also aid in determining a structure’s eligibility. The following points further discuss eligibility requirements as well as work considered to be ineligible.

Deficiency Classification. Deficiency Classification. FHWA criteria determine whether a bridge is classified deficient (structurally deficient or functionally obsolete). A structurally deficient bridge is one with routine maintenance concerns that do not pose a safety risk or one that is frequently flooded. To remain open to traffic, structurally deficient bridges are often posted with reduced weight limits that restrict the gross weight of vehicles using the bridges. A functionally obsolete bridge is one in which the deck width, vertical clearance, or waterway is not adequate to accommodate the traffic demand on the bridge or the volume of water under the bridge. Specific definitions of deficiency classification are in the Bridge Inspection Manual.

Sufficiency Rating. The sufficiency rating of a bridge is a single numerical representation of the sufficiency of the bridge that ranges from 0 to 100. In calculating the rating, consideration is given to the structural adequacy and safety, serviceability and functional obsolescence, and essentiality of traffic service. The higher the number the greater the sufficiency rating. The sufficiency rating serves as a basis for establishing eligibility for replacement or rehabilitation of deficient-classified bridges on the program. If the bridge is deficient and the rating is less than 50, the bridge is eligible for replacement or rehabilitation. If the bridge is deficient and the rating is between 50 and 80, the bridge is eligible for rehabilitation only unless replacement can be justified by economic analysis. For ratings higher than 80, the bridge is not eligible for remedy under the program. For specific definitions of sufficiency ratings, see the Bridge Inspection Manual.

Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Projects. Bridge replacement means total replacement of a deficient-classified bridge with a facility constructed in the same general traffic corridor. The replacement structure should meet the current geometric, construction, and structural standards required for the type and volume of traffic expected on the facility over its design life. Applicable American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) design standards should be used.

Bridge rehabilitation refers to project requirements necessary to perform the major work of restoring the structural integrity of a bridge as well as work necessary to correct major safety defects. Related costs are eligible except as noted under the Ineligible Work paragraph below.

Bridges to be replaced or rehabilitated both on and off the federal-aid highways should, as a minimum, conform to the Design Standards for Federal-Aid Highways contained in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 23, Part 625.

Highway Bridge Program funding for bridge replacement and rehabilitation projects is restricted by Bridge Division directives as follows:

  • It will cover the structural cost of the bridge and an approach roadway length of 300 ft. total.
  • Roadway costs for approach roadways greater than 300 ft. are limited to no more than 25% of bridge costs plus detour costs.
  • At least 50% of the funds are dedicated to bridge costs alone.

Highway Bridge Program funding for bridge replacement and rehabilitation projects is determined as follows:

  • The entire project cost excluding items not eligible for federal funding is allowed for bridges with 150-ft.-or-less average approach roadways (300 ft. total).
  • The following formula applies to bridges with more than 150-ft. approach roadways (300 ft total): {[(Bridge Costs + Detour Costs) x 1.25] + (Mobilization + SW3P + Traffic Handling and Barricades + Removal of the Old Structure + Approach Rail + Bridge Approach Slabs)}, not to exceed [(Bridge Costs) x 2].
  • Bridge costs are the structural items (mostly Texas Standard Specifications 400 Items) listed separately for bridges in the project estimate. The approach roadway is the actual approach roadway called for in the plans.
  • Detour costs used in this formula must be based on either actual or theoretical costs. If a bridge is built on an alternate alignment to facilitate phased construction, then a theoretical cost for a detour that would have otherwise been required may be included in the calculation. The Bridge Division must approve the design and extent of any actual or theoretical detour for Category 6 ON/OFF funding before acquisition of right-of-way or other expenditure contingent on detour approval.
  • Funding limitations are based on the project estimate submitted with the final PS&E package sent to the Design Division before letting. Any funding over the eligible Category 6 ON/OFF funding limit required for the project must come from other available funding categories.
  • In special circumstances roadway costs over the eligible Category 6 ON/OFF funding limit required for the project are considered for Category 6 ON/OFF funding if they have no other category of funding available. Funding justifications must be submitted and approved by the Bridge Division.

Outcome of Project. Replacement or rehabilitation projects under the HBP should result in the removal of the bridge from structurally deficient and/or functionally obsolete classification. Exceptions to this requirement are off-system historic structures that meet the guidelines of the Historic Bridge Manual.

Multiple Bridges on Same Control-Section-Job (CSJ). For programming purposes, two or more bridges may be combined into a single CSJ, provided the bridges are located on the same route within the same floodplain or otherwise on the same route in reasonable proximity.

Clustered Projects. For improved efficiency and cost, multiple projects, typically in the same county, may be let for construction in the same contract. The Project Development Section is available to assist as needed in the development of clustered bridge projects. Projects should, however, be able to stand alone in case unexpected delays occur.

Other Projects Possibly Eligible for Federal Fund Participation. The governing federal statute provides that the state may apply federal funds to replacement of the following:

  • Public highway/road bridges rendered obsolete as a result of federal flood control or channelization projects
  • Public highway/road traffic ferries in existence on January 1, 1984
  • Public highway/road bridges destroyed prior to 1965
  • Public highway/road, non-bridge structures classified as low-water crossings

Proceeding with a replacement project under any of these special instances usually occurs outside the established statewide prioritization process. Projects should demonstrate compelling needs, and planners should document circumstances thoroughly.

Bridge projects for replacement of bridges destroyed prior to 1965 should be limited to those destroyed bridges that had significant importance. The responsible highway/road jurisdiction should evidence this importance by making reasonable progress in scheduling the needed rehabilitation or replacement of the facility.

Deficiencies of non-bridge low-water crossings are predominantly functional with any collapse typically gradual and localized. Therefore, replacement should be strictly on a case by case basis, considering the type and volume of traffic and the needs of the users. Also, apply only in instances of year-round water flow through the crossing with at least 6-ft. average depth and/or at least one flood closure with one-day duration during each four-year period.

Before pursuing federal funding in any of these four special instances, contact should be made with the Bridge Division project manager.

Ten-Year Rule for New Construction and Major Reconstruction. Bridges identified in the bridge inspection database as having a date of construction or major reconstruction within the past ten years are ineligible for the HBP regardless of the source of funding (local, state, or federal).

Disposition/Use of Existing Bridge. Whenever a deficient bridge is replaced or its deficiency otherwise alleviated under the bridge program, the bridge should either be dismantled or demolished or its use limited to the type and volume of traffic that the structure can safely service over its remaining life.

Bridges replaced with federal funds that are identified as historically significant may be preserved for adaptive reuse with federal fund participation up to the estimated demolition cost. The Historic Bridge Manual has additional information.

Funding of Environmental Mitigation Work. Work for the required mitigation of environmental impact in bridge projects is eligible for HBP participation.

Ineligible Work. The costs of long approach fills, causeways, connecting roadways, interchanges, ramps, and other extensive earth structures, when constructed beyond the attainable touchdown point, are not eligible under the HBP.

Toll Bridges. If they meet all other eligibility requirements, existing bridges on toll highways may be eligible for the HBP under certain conditions. These conditions include the following:

  • The highway is publicly owned.
  • Tolls are being collected to finance necessary maintenance of the facility and to pay off construction bonds (that is, tolls are not being collected in any part for profit).
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Statewide Prioritization

Safety is TxDOT's main focus in prioritizing projects including bridge projects being considered for replacement or rehabilitation using HBP funds. Structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges are prioritized for the program in order of lowest sufficiency rating to highest. Projects are programmed for four years at a time. The first two years of projects are included in the department's 24- month letting schedule with the following two years in a plan development stage. All of these projects are authorized for construction letting for their respective years. All project letting dates are subject to change based on changing conditions, fiscal funding levels, or emergency projects.

Each year, the Bridge Division reviews the list of programmed bridges using HBP funds and coordinates with districts and Finance Division to verify the projects within the 24-month letting schedule as well as the projects in plan development. The Bridge Division also develops a list of eligible bridges for the districts to review and submit for consideration for HBP funds. The Bridge Division prioritizes the newly submitted bridges and ranks them according to their deficiency status: from lowest sufficiency rating to highest. Bridges are selected in this order until funding is exhausted within the year(s) that have available funding. Bridges not selected for a requested fiscal year due to funding limits being reached, are added to the following year for consideration and prioritized until funds are exhausted. This process is repeated for each year of the four-year HBP program listing until funds for all fiscal programming years have been exhausted.

Districts are given the opportunity to request special consideration projects for any of the project development years. Due to the funding constraints, however, districts should be prepared to delay one or more of their previously approved projects in that fiscal year.

Funding not used in the current fiscal year is rolled over to the next fiscal year (subject to Transportation Commission approval), however, the goal is to use all of the available funding to ensure deficient bridges are replaced as soon as possible and to assist the department in meeting its goals and priorities. To accomplish this, the Bridge Division encourages bridge projects selected within the first four years be developed and ready to go to letting within the first two years of the program. This allows projects to be moved into the current fiscal year and be let for construction should another project be delayed. The Bridge Division's goals are to use all of the funding for each year of the program and reduce the number of deficient structures in the state.

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Administration of Off-System Highway Bridge Program Projects

When planning involves an off-system bridge project, particularly those under the Highway Bridge Program, coordination with the local government is essential.

  • Prior to a project gaining CONSTRUCT authorization, the appropriate local government should be contacted, and its interest in participating in the project established.
  • If the local government expresses interest in the project and the project has CONSTRUCT authorization, an appropriate Advance Funding Agreement agreement must be executed between the state and local government before any work, either preliminary engineering or construction, can be performed. In addition to specifying the responsibilities of the parties in the performance and funding of the work, the agreement provides for advance payments (escrow payments) or performance of equivalent-match-funded work by the local government for its share of the project funding responsibilities. Questions about the standard agreement form should be directed to the appropriate Bridge Division Project Manager.
  • Funding is typically 80-10-10, federal-state-local, with the local match fund participation requirement based on the estimate of project costs made at the time of agreement or agreement amendment execution.
  • For Category 6 OFF projects that are not yet CONSTRUCT-authorized, exercise judgment in communication with the local government. Avoid expectations of imminent project construction. A project must be CONSTRUCT-authorized to be let for construction. A project cannot be let until a local government either remits escrow payments for its required participation in the project or provides a written agreement on how it will meet its participation requirement.
  • The usual 10% participation of the local government may be adjusted where the project is located within a county that meets the statutory definition of being an “economically disadvantaged county” (EDC). Such adjustments of local government participation due to EDC classification are based on applications submitted by the local government through the district office, to the Transportation Planning and Programming Division.
  • The local match requirement on off-system bridge program projects may be waived. For waiving of the required local participation to be considered, the local government must agree to use local funds to perform structural or other safety improvement work on other load-carrying deficient bridges or cross-drainage structures in its jurisdiction. Such work must have a dollar value at least equivalent to the required local match participation or local participation as adjusted under the EDC provision.

The requirements of 43 TAC Section 15.55(d) must be fully met in initiating and processing such a waiver. Adhere to the following sequence of events for inviting, reviewing and approving the waiver on an authorized federal off-system bridge program project:

  • The district notifies the Local Government of the availability of waivers subject to specified conditions and invites submittal of requests.
  • The Local Government makes such a request.
  • The District receives and considers the completed request for waiver from the Local Government according to requirements of 43 TAC Section 15.55(d).
  • If the request for waiver meets all requirements and approval is appropriate, the district advises the Local Government in writing of approval.
  • If the request for waiver does not meet all requirements of 43 TAC Section 15.55(d) or approval is otherwise not appropriate, the district informs the Local Government, stating the reason(s) for disapproval of the waiver request.
  • Execute an appropriate agreement for the project.
  • The district keeps a file of all correspondence and documentation pertaining to the waiver and related equivalent-match project(s). Include in this file the subsequent documentation received from the Local Government pertaining to completion of the equivalent-match project work.
  • If the district has not been notified by the Local Government that the equivalent-match work has been completed within the specified three-year period, the district inquires as to the status of the work. If it is determined that the work has not been accomplished and no significant progress has or is being made toward such accomplishment, then the five-year period for exclusion of the Local Government from such waivers may be invoked, or an extension requested from the Bridge Division.
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Requests for Remedial Work on Completed Off-System Highway Bridge Program Projects (UTP Category 6 OFF)

During its post-construction service life, all bridge will eventually require maintenance. Thus, one of the provisions of the usual advanced funding agreement executed between the state and local government on these projects states that...” After the project has been completed, the local government shall accept full ownership and operate and maintain the facility authorized by the agreement for the benefit of and no charge of toll to the public.”

However, there may be instances where a local government will approach the district requesting repair or other remedial action by TxDOT on a completed off-system bridge project with the local government requesting the remedial action due to poor design or design error.

The suggestion of design deficiency should be determined by a thorough review of all the pertinent information and facts.

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