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Section 2: FHWA Policy on Bridge Railing

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Overview

On August 28, 1986, Mr. R.D. Morgan, the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Executive Director at that time, issued a policy memorandum that stated highway bridges on the National Highway System (NHS) and the Interstate Highway System (IHS) must have crash-tested railing.

Since then, there have been 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. Current policy is stated in the following documents:

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  • MAP-21, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (P.L. 112-141), was signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012. Funding surface transportation programs at over $105 billion for fiscal years 2013 and 2014, MAP-21 is the first highway authorization enacted since 2005.
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  • FAST Act, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (Pub. L. No. 114-94), was signed into law by President Obama on December 4, 2015. The first federal law in over a decade, the FAST Act authorizes $305 billion over Fiscal Years 2016 through 2020 for highway, highway and motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, rail, and research, technology, and statistics programs.
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  • National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 350, Procedures for the Safety Performance Evaluation of Highway Features. Provides guidance for testing highway features to assess safety performance of those features, replacing guidance defined in NCHRP Report 230. Guidance includes definitions of crash-test levels with specified vehicle, speed, and impact angle for each level.
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  • Recording and Coding Guide for the Structure Inventory and Appraisal of the Nation’s Bridges.” Report No. FHWA-PD-96-001, p. 69. Clarifies that “safety feature replacement or upgrading (for example, bridge rail...)” is a type of work eligible for funding under any of the Federal aid categories but not considered as reconstruction and, therefore, not activating the FHWA’s “ Ten Year Rule”. The Ten Year Rule disqualifies a bridge for additional federal aid funds for a period of ten years after any federal funds have been used on a new bridge, reconstructed bridge, or major bridge rehabilitation.
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  • May 30, 1997, memorandum from Dwight Horne on the subject of “ Crash Testing of Bridge Railings.” Identifies 68 crash-tested bridge rails, consolidating earlier listings and establishing tentative equivalency ratings that relate previous testing to NCHRP Report 350 test levels. Ten of the 68 crash-tested rails were developed and tested in Texas.
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  • July 25, 1997, memorandum from Donald Steinke on the subject of “ Identifying Acceptable Highway Safety Features.” Clarifies and summarizes policies on bridge railing, points to authorities for requiring testing of bridge railing, and identifies methods for submitting new rails for testing. This document also identifies exceptions, one of which is the replacement or retrofitting of existing bridge railing unless improvements are being made on a stretch of highway that includes a bridge with obsolete railing.
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  • August 28, 1998, memorandum from Henry Rentz on the subject of “ National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 350 Hardware Compliance Dates” (with attachments). Extends implementation dates and adds caveats for use of safety hardware in new installations and 3R projects. Explicitly assigns responsibility to transportation agencies for defining “...when extensions, relocation, adjustments or major repairs to a feature constitute a new installation” and whether “...features that meet the acceptance requirements recommended in NCHRP Report 230...may remain in place.”
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  • May 16, 2000, memorandum from Frederick Wright on the subject of “ Bridge Rail Analysis.” Allows responsible transportation agencies to request FHWA acceptance of a specific bridge railing type that has not been crash tested based on analysis showing its similarity to a design that has been crash-tested and found compliant with NCHRP-350 requirements.
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  • AASHTO Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (2009). (Available on the AASHTO website at https://bookstore.transportation.org/Item_details.aspx?id=1539.) Provides guidance for testing permanent and temporary highway safety features to assess safety performance of those features, replacing guidance defined in NCHRP Report 350. Guidance includes definitions of crash-test levels with specified vehicle, speed, and impact angle for each level.
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  • November 20, 2009, memorandum from David A. Nicol on the subject of " Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH)." This AASHTO manual supersedes NCHRP Report 350 for the purposes of evaluating new safety hardware. It sets guidelines for crash testing and evaluation criteria for assessing test results. The joint AASHTO/FHWA implementation plan states that all highway safety hardware accepted under the criteria in NCHRP Report 350 does not need to be retested to MASH criteria; may remain in place; and may continue to be manufactured and installed. However, all new hardware that is developed must be tested and evaluated according to MASH.
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  • May 21, 2012, memorandum from Tony Furst on the subject of Roadside Safety Hardware - Federal-Aid Reimbursement Eligibility Process and related Frequently Asked Questions. Establishes that States can certify that roadside safety hardware has been tested by an accredited crash test laboratory and meets MASH criteria, and can thus be eligible for reimbursement.
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  • January 7, 2016 memorandum from Thomas Everett on the subject of “ AASHTO/FHWA Joint Implementation Agreement for Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH).” The memo discusses the agreement between AASHTO and FHWA that requires all new installations of safety hardware on the NHS to be evaluated using the 2016 edition of MASH. The requirement applies to bridge railings with contract letting dates after December 31, 2019.

In summary, FHWA policy is that all new or replacement railing on National Highway System or Interstate Highway System bridges must meet Test Level 3 (TL-3) crash-test criteria at a minimum. However, responsible transportation agencies have limited latitude to define when existing railing that complies with requirements of NCHRP Report 230 must be replaced.

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Certifying Reimbursement-Eligible Roadside Safety Hardware

In accordance with the May 21, 2012 memo, "Roadside Safety Hardware - Federal-Aid Reimbursement Eligibility Process," TxDOT certifies that all traffic and combination railings included in Appendix A, "Acceptable Bridge Railing in Texas," of this Manual have been crash-tested by an accredited test facility or evaluated to be equal to a crash-tested railing, as stated herein. These bridge railings are eligible for federal-aid reimbursement.

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Required Crash Tests

The AASHTO Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) defines six crash-test levels for evaluation of bridge railing for vehicular traffic, as follows.

Anchor: #i999901Table 2-1: Crash Tests Required by AASHTO Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (2009)

Test Level (TL)

Test No.

Vehicle

Impact Speed

Impact Angle

TL-1

1-10

2420-lb. small car

31 mph

25 degrees

1-11

4409-lb. pickup truck

31 mph

25 degrees

TL-2

2-10

2420-lb passenger car

44 mph

25 degrees

2-11

5000-lb pickup truck

44 mph

25 degrees

TL-3

3-10

2420-lb passenger car

62 mph

25 degrees

3-11

5000-lb pickup truck

62 mph

25 degrees

TL-4

4-10

2420-lb passenger car

62 mph

25 degrees

4-11

5000-lb pickup truck

62 mph

25 degrees

4-12

22,000-lb single-unit truck

56 mph

15 degrees

TL-5

5-10

2420-lb passenger car

62 mph

25 degrees

5-11

5000-lb pickup truck

62 mph

25 degrees

5-12

79,300-lb tractor-van trailer

50 mph

15 degrees

TL-6

6-10

2420-lb passenger car

62 mph

25 degrees

6-11

5000-lb pickup truck

62 mph

25 degrees

6-12

79,300-lb tractor-tank trailer

50 mph

15 degrees



NCHRP Report 350 defined six test levels, as follows.

Anchor: #PUOQJIDTTable 2-2: Crash Tests Required by NCHRP Report 350

Test Level (TL)

Test No.

Vehicle

Impact Speed

Impact Angle

TL-1

1-10

1973-lb. small car

31 mph

20 degrees

1-11

4409-lb. pickup truck

31 mph

25 degrees

TL-2

2-10

1973-lb. small car

43 mph

20 degrees

2-11

4409-lb. pickup truck

43 mph

25 degrees

TL-3

3-10

1973-lb. small car

62 mph

20 degrees

3-11

4409-lb. pickup truck

62 mph

25 degrees

TL-4

4-10

1973-lb. small car

62 mph

20 degrees

4-11

4409-lb. pickup truck

62 mph

25 degrees

4-12

17,637-lb. single-unit truck

50 mph

15 degrees

TL-5

5-10

1973-lb. small car

62 mph

20 degrees

5-11

4409-lb. pickup truck

62 mph

25 degrees

5-12

79,366-lb tractor-van trailer

50 mph

15 degrees

TL-6

6-10

1973-lb. small car

62 mph

20 degrees

6-11

4409-lb. pickup truck

62 mph

25 degrees

6-12

79,366-lb tractor-tank trailer

50 mph

15 degrees




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