Chapter 2: History of Bridge Inspection

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Section 1: Initial Reasons for Bridge Inspection

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Beginning of Bridge Inspection

After World War II, Texas initiated an extensive road construction program. As a result, most emphasis was on new and economical construction, and for about two decades most highway departments gave little effort to bridge inspection or preventive maintenance.

In 1967, there was a sudden collapse of the Silver Bridge, a pin-connected link suspension bridge over the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, with loss of 46 lives. As a result, a 1968 federal act1 initiated a national bridge inspection program that recognized the need for periodic and consistent bridge inspections. The first National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) were developed in 1971.2

Another structure failure at the Mianus River Bridge in Connecticut in 1983 caused more concern related to fatigue and fracture-critical bridges. This failure and further research resulted in fracture-critical inspections to be mandated. In 1987, scour caused failure of the Schoharie Creek Bridge in New York. This failure resulted in the initiation of the underwater bridge inspection program.

The Bridge Inspector’s Reference Manual3 gives a more detailed history of bridge inspection on pages 1.1.1 through1.1.9.

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First Texas Bridge Inspection Program

The first formal bridge inspection program in Texas began in 1975. The first Administrative Circular initiating the inspections was No. 60-75 issued in 19754. It stated that all on-system bridges were to be inspected every two years and that a computerized inventory data file was to be maintained. The reporting of data was made to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on required forms. Texas was the first state to develop a punch-card reporting scheme accepted by the FHWA and later mandated for all states.


1. Federal Highway Act of 1968.

2. National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS), FHWA, 1971.

3. Bridge Inspector's Reference Manual, FHWA, October, 2002, revised December, 2006.

4. Administrative Circular No. 60-75, TxDOT, 1975.

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