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Section 6: Rail Replacement Program

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Overview

The Rail Replacement Program (RRP) is sub-program funded out of the Bridge Maintenance and Improvement Program (BMIP). In September 2014, nearly 50 percent of TxDOT’s on-system bridges were coded in the Bridge Inspection Database as having substandard rails. While TxDOT does have policies for the replacement of substandard rails in association with other roadway work, prior to the RRP, no single program existed that encouraged and provided funding for the replacement of rails on bridges that were in otherwise good condition.

The goal of the RRP is to improve safety on bridges and bridge-class culverts that are in good condition, but have no traffic safety features, or have traffic safety features that do not comply with the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) or the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 350. The funding for this program will come out of the BMIP (Category 6 BMN).

The RRP funding per bridge project will include the cost for replacing the entire non-compliant bridge rail plus the cost of adding the minimum required MBGF length per bridge rail corner not to exceed 100 feet per corner. For culverts, the program will fund construction of a safety end treatment (SET) or MBGF if it is the more appropriate choice for the location.

Funding and policy for the RRP is supported by FHWA’s FAST Act and 23 CFR 133(b)(15), which states that eligible projects include highway and transit safety infrastructure improvements and programs.

Refer to the Bridge Railing Manual, Section 2: FHWA Policy on Bridge Railing: Overview, for a list of numerous policy memorandums and reports issued by FHWA, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHTO) and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) regarding bridge railing safety. Federal laws have also been passed that include measures to enhance the crash worthiness of roadside features.

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Eligibility Requirements

In order to be considered eligible for the RRP, a bridge or bridge-class culvert must meet the following eligibility requirements:

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  • On-system. The RRP will only fund the replacement of bridge rails on on-system, TxDOT owned bridges. Bridges that are a part of a Comprehensive Development Agreement (CDA) or other non-state funded projects are not eligible. The focus of the RRP is on structures that have no other available funding options.
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  • Not historic. The coordination process required to obtain approval for rails installed on historic trusses is more complex than for other highway bridges, and design and installation requires special consideration. Rail upgrades to historic trusses should be performed when the bridge undergoes a general restoration.
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  • Not eligible for HBP, or not SD or FO. The RRP will focus only on on-system structures that are not currently eligible for replacement or rehabilitation. Bridges that are structurally deficient (SD) or functionally obsolete (FO) or are eligible for the Highway Bridge Program (HBP) will not be considered. The Division may consider expediting a project in the HBP at the time when special consideration projects are requested.
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  • Condition rating >5. The deck/superstructure/substructure/culvert rating must be greater than 5.
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  • Non-compliant or substandard rail. The bridge must have a non-compliant or substandard bridge rail, or have no safety feature, as indicated by the first digit “0” in Item 36, “Traffic Safety Feature” of the Bridge Inspection Database. A bridge is identified as having a non-compliant traffic safety feature if it lacks a safety feature, or has a safety feature that is non-compliant with MASH or NCHRP 350. Rails that are height-deficient are also considered non-compliant, but are subject to additional funding restrictions. However, the RRP will not fund work required to address height-deficient rails where the deficiency is due to the overuse of overlay on bridge decks. This condition can easily be addressed by removing the overlay and/or tapering the overlay from the exterior lane to the toe of the rail. These height deficiencies should be addressed by the Districts. Refer to the Bridge Railing Manual for more information.

Some additional situations affecting eligibility for RRP funds are described below:

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  • Compliant safety shapes not meeting FHWA test level requirements. If the bridge rail is a compliant safety shape, but the test level of the rail shape does not meet the posted speed of the roadway, then this rail replacement is eligible for RRP funding. RRP will also fund replacement of rails which do not meet the required FHWA minimum for a TL-3 designation on NHS bridges.
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  • Bridge rails coded “1” in the Bridge Inspection Database. Any bridge rails marked as a “1” in the first digit of Item 36 are not eligible for the program. If there is a question as to validity of the Bridge Inspection Database coding, please refer to the Bridge Railing Manual, Chapter 4, Section 2, Table 4-2. If a discrepancy with the as-built condition and Bridge Inspection Database coding is discovered, please coordinate with your District Bridge Inspection coordinator to have the database updated. Please utilize the Rail Identification Guide to properly identify the existing bridge rail. The Rail Identification Guide can be found at the following link: https://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/library/pubs/bus/bridge/railing.pdf
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  • Economic benefit. With approximately 15,000 bridges with rails as non-compliant at the time of RRP’s implementation, the first step in identifying candidate bridges is to filter out the bridges that are in a condition where retrofitting a new bridge rail would not be economic.
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  • Funding Limitation. RRP funding will cover the cost of approach guard fence, safety end treatment, and transition up to 100 feet per bridge corner. If the total LF of approach rail exceeds 400 LF per bridge, non-Category 6 funding will be required to cover the total additional approach rail cost.
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Statewide Prioritization and Programming

Damaged bridge rails or frequently impacted rails are the highest RRP priority. Evidence of repeated collisions or significant impacts needs to be brought to BRG’s attention for funding review. BRG wants to ensure that significantly damaged substandard rails are not repaired in kind; therefore, a guidance is provided stating if 10 percent or 75 feet, whichever is least, of the entire bridge rail is damaged, all of the railing should be replaced with a compliant rail. The intent of this guidance is to discourage repairs to non-compliant rail due to lack of maintenance funds. A newer rail will help save maintenance funds because it will fare better in a vehicular collision, and it will be of standard construction, which is easier to repair.

Prioritization will also be based on Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) greater than or equal to 10,000 vehicles per day (vpd) and on bridges that are on the National Highway System (NHS). Consideration will also be given to design or posted speeds, whichever is higher, of 50 mph and greater. Bridges with high impact frequencies, but AADT lower than 10,000 vpd will be considered by BRG for inclusion in the RRP on a case-by-case basis.

The Bridge Division will prioritize candidate projects based on the below criteria and with input from the Districts. The criteria to prioritize RRP projects are as follows:

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.

The RRP has an annual call for project consideration. 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 constraints, or emergency projects.

Each year the Bridge Division develops a list of eligible bridges based on the prioritization criteria listed above for the districts to review and submit for consideration for available RRP funds.

Anchor: #i1060339Table 2-4: Rail Replacement Program Selection Process Schedule

Program Time

Month

Time Frame

Action Items

List Development

July

1 month

BRG develops lists of all eligible and prioritized RRP projects.

Program Call

August

1 month

Districts select new candidates and update current estimates and lettings. Check validity of rail type.

Project Selection

September - October

2 months

BRG develops list of District candidate projects. Districts visit bridges and fill out Form 2488 noting discrepancies. RRP project can still be removed at this time.

Selection Comments and Special Considerations

September - October

2 months

Districts comment on selections and propose special considerations.

Program Call Finalized

November

End of month

BRG prepares final call list with special considerations.

Final List Sent to FIN

November

End of month

BRG sends final RRP list to FIN.

DCIS Updates

December

1 month

Districts submit DCIS changes and build new CSJs.

Develop PS&E

Submit package 3 months pre-letting

9-24 months

District begins survey, permitting, and layout development. BRG review required.

Bridge Rail Plans

Begin rail design no later than 6 months pre-letting

Minimum 2 months

Bridge plans developed by District, Consultant, or BRG. BRG review required.



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