A Conversation with Darlene Lane, Administrative Assistant and Travel Coordinator with NCPP

Darlene Lane, NCPP, with Dennis Tang, NCPP

Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

It is almost impossible to think of TSP2 Bridge Preservation without also thinking of Darlene Lane. She plays a key role in the organization by coordinating and managing all its activities, from the regional and national meetings to the monthly calls of the regional Partnerships and Working Groups. I had a conversation with Darlene about her career, work and personal interests.

Can you summarize your professional career? What was your work experience before joining NCPP – TSP2 Bridge Preservation? How did come to get involved with this organization?

Before joining NCPP – TSP2, most of my professional career was in the banking industry. I started out as a teller at Standard Federal, a Michigan-based bank in Troy. I then worked as a savings counselor, mortgage counselor, and loan counselor, before being promoted to branch manager. From there I moved up to Assistant Vice President. I have fond memories of working for this bank. The Troy office was located in a lovely place, right next to the Somerset mall, which is a very highend mall. Not to speak of the beautiful artwork that the President, Mr. Thomas Ricketts, placed in the offices for the enjoyment of both the employees and the customers. These were the good times of the mortgage industry before the 2009 crisis, when everything went to hell and back. Standard Federal was bought out by Bank of America leaving us with the new owners that were ruthless. They immediately took away all the benefits so that I was left without my business cell phone, mileage, and credit card. Even more important, they changed my pay structure in such a way that I would have to pay them out of my own pocket if I did not reach my goals. So, potentially I could have found myself in a situation where I would be paying Bank of America to work for them.  Without reservations, I decided to take my buy-out. Soon after that, people got fired by Bank of America left and right. So, I was really glad I took that decision.

Who was going to hire me next? That was a big worry.  I was in my 50s, without a job, and in need of insurance. With the support of a friend, who was a manager for Citizens Bank, I started working for this bank. After completing their training in Flint, the only available opening was in Lansing, which was quite a drive from my house. So, I started communing to work.

In Lansing I used to wait on elderly lady, whose name was Betty Molinere. Among the other things, I helped her open safety deposit boxes and instructed her on how to pay bills on line. She was the mom of Patte Hahn, my current supervisor at NCPP, but at that time I did not know that. One day I got a call from Patte, asking me to reach out to her after work. At first, I thought that something might have happened to her mom. After being reassured  that everything was fine, I learnt that she actually wanted to know if I could be interested in taking a new position with the NCPP. She was impressed by my customer service skills, based on her mother’s words of appreciation. I recall that she said something like: “Well, I have a new position that I’m trying to fill in. I don’t even know if you’re looking for a job. But my mom thinks you would be wonderful for it”. Needless to say, I was very interested in Patte’s proposal. I did phone interviews with four people from NCPP. Then I did another set of in-person interviews before getting the formal offer.

At first, I did basic tasks at NCPP, such answering the phone and filing. Then one day, the person who was responsible for the bridge program suddenly quit. She left a note and her office keys on my desk after hours. The next thing you know, Patte and the other managers are talking behind closed doors. What soon followed was Patte coming to me and asking if I wanted to take on the position for the bridge group. My first thought was that I did not know anything about bridges except they go over water, but I said to myself: “Give it a try. So, I took the position and started organizing meetings and travels for the Bridge Preservation group. I have been doing this work and enjoying it since then. The best part is the friendships I’ve made and the kinship with everybody. I do like helping people. It makes me feel good inside.

I started working for TSP2 Bridge Preservation 12 years ago. Without a doubt, these 12 years have been a source of great satisfaction for me, both professional and personal.

What are your current responsibilities with NCPP?

As I mentioned earlier, I take care of travel arrangements for the annual meetings of the four Regional Partnerships. This mainly includes hotel and flight reservations for all the participants, excluding industry representatives, such as manufacturers and consultants. Then I run the monthly calls for the Bridge Preservation Partnerships and all its 8 Working Groups. It sums up to about 10 calls per month.

I also handle the accounting related to travel expenses, such as reconciling hotel bills, making sure that we are not getting overcharged or there is not a name in the bill that does not belong to our lodging list.

How has TSP2 Bridge Preservation evolved over time?

The number of people we serve has changed significantly over time. At the first TSP2 Bridge Preservation meeting in 2010 there were 60 people attending. Today we consistently have between 200 and 250 people participating in the meetings.

The amount and quality of information we offer to engineers and bridge preservation practitioners has also increased dramatically. Our web site has become the go-to-place for technical information and researches in the field of bridge preservation. Also, we have a number of Working Groups that are creating new tools and setting up new initiatives to promote and support bridge preservation.

Our internal organization has also grown over time. Twelve years ago the bridge preservation program was run by two people: Ed Welch and Steve Varnadoe. Currently the program can count on two people fully dedicated to it, Nancy Huether and Todd Shields, plus a team of seven people, between employees and consultants, who work for NCPP and dedicate a considerable part of their time to bridge preservation. In addition to myself, this team of seven people includes, Kathy Chomas, in charge of accounting, Inger Johnson, who helps with travel arrangements, Patte Hahn, who is the administrative manager for NCPP, Dennis Tang, who is in charge of IT and web site updates, Zach Trost, who does all our videography, and Bouzid Choubane, who is the director of NCPP since 2021.

There are three more people that complete the NCPP team: Rex Eberly, who does certification training for the Pavement Preservation, John O’Doherty, who is involved with research programs, and Dennis Halchoff, who lives in Arizona and works with equipment engineers throughout all the DOT states. [Ed Note: NCPP has a third branch in addition to Pavement Preservation and Bridge Preservation that is dedicated to Equipment Management. An equipment manager can be defined as anyone having a fleet to remove snow, cut the grass and do road work.]

NCPP also manages the Road Profile Users’ Group, which is called RPUG. This is a non-profit organization that serves as forum for the exchange of information between interested parties in road profiles.  Another branch of Pavement Preservation is the Emulsion Task Force called ETF, for which I also organize meetings and travels.

Do you also organize the Pavement Preservation meetings?

Patte organizes these meetings while I handle travels, flights and hotel rooms for them. I am in charge of travel arrangements for the three the branches of NCPP, not only for Bridge Preservation. I make reservations for 400 to 500 flights per year.

What aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?

First and foremost, I enjoy the people I work with. I am surrounded by such a nice group of people that are always thanking me for my work, even though I feel as if I don’t do anything special.

I do love my job. And I also love to travel for my job. If it had not been for the traveling, it would have been difficult for me after COVID. Since 2021, when my husband passed away, I have been alone at home in the Michigan countryside. It is not really easy to be at home 24 hours a day by yourself.

I must say that my husband’s passing away was very hard on me. He died at a most unfortunate time during our daughter’s wedding reception, when he aspirated on food and choked. Even thought there was a medical doctor present, nothing could have been done to save his life. He was only in his 60s.

The health of my husband Tim has marked the last 13 years of my life. He had COVID twice during the pandemic when he was hospitalized for 102 days as a total. Before COVID, in 2009, he suffered a stroke. I found him at home in our pole barn laying on the ground with my neighbor’s dog next to him. I had no idea how long he had lain there. He survived the stroke, but had to learn to walk and talk again.

Soon after the stroke, my mom moved in with us so as to take care of my husband when I was working. I had to work because I needed medical insurance. Tragically, one night, when she went out for a coffee with her sister, her car was hit. She passed away 10 days later leaving 54 grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was the matriarch of our family.

After the passing away of my mother, there was no other solution for me but to place my husband in a nursing home. I could not leave him alone at home because he could have taken a fall or easily hurt himself. This was 2015. For the next 6 years, every night after work, I would go to the nursing home and spend a couple hours with him. It was hard for me both mentally and physically. My husband was a very large man. So, just bathing and getting him dressed was hard work. The following morning I was tired, but nevertheless, I kept going to the office, doing my work with a smile and upbeat. Professional counseling helped me manage all that happened in that trying period of my life.

I do understand how your work at NCPP, the comradery and the traveling, helped you during those challenging times. I remember you telling me of a trip abroad to Paris that you enjoyed in particular.

Yes, that was an unforgettable trip. I was invited by Larry Galehouse along with all the NCPP team. In the end though, it was only me and Dennis Tang who were able to accept the invitation. I was accompanied by a girlfriend, who, strangely enough, shares the same birthday as Larry.

My working schedule in Paris was such that I had time for some sightseeing. I walked a lot, took the metro, went to the markets where I still recall the beautiful flower arrangements. What I liked most was sitting at a café’, drinking wine and eating cheese as if I were a regular.

Our hotel in Paris was very nice, with a room with a balcony and an elevator so small that only two people and one suitcase could fit in. One evening we went out to see a show of the Folies Bergere where we had front row seats. I have never seen anything similar in the USA.

So, definitively, that trip to Paris was a special treat for me.

Earlier I asked you what you enjoy most of your work. Now I would like to ask you the opposite question. What do not your like of your work? What is it challenging for you?

It can be challenging to relate to so many different people since everybody has different ways to treat others. My rule is to treat people the same way I want to be treated.

Since I began working from home, I miss the office environment, going out to lunch with my colleagues, having our birthdays at work, and stuff like that. I am a people person, who likes walking into the office and say hello, bounce off ideas or just chit chat. Don’t get me wrong though. I am still very productive at work.

When did you start working from home? Was it related to COVID?

Darlene working remotely from home.

It was March 13th of 2020 at the peak of the COVID pandemic. We haven’t gone back yet. I’m the only person that’s actually single in our office. So, I’m by myself all the time at home and there’s loneliness.

I go into the office sometimes when I have to get name tags ready and ship everything necessary for the meetings.  We have a lower volume of shipments recently due to the fact we went green and no longer print stuff such as agendas and attendee lists.

I live out in the country. There is a dairy farm across my road and another farm behind me. My internet service is horrible and without a lot of choices. Since Verizon changed the configuration of their tower, I can get only one bar at home. Sometimes I have to go out on my deck to be able to work. You can imagine that this is not a very feasible option in Michigan during the winter.

As usual, I would like to close my interview with a question about free time. So, what do you like to do in your free time?

I like to travel, as you already know.

I love the ocean. There is something about the salty air, the beach, the waves that soothes my heart.  

When Tim was alive, we liked to hunt. We did trap and skeet shooting and also target shooting.

I enjoy cutting the grass at my home that is on 12 acres. I obviously don’t cut all of it. I just cut for a couple hours. It is a very relaxing activity for me. I think it is about being out in nature. I do love nature. There is nothing like seeing a beautiful sunset or staring at stars at night.

I like drinking  wine. We have a lot of wineries in Michigan, especially up North.

I love going up north. This can be deceiving in Michigan where we call north both the upper peninsula and the upper part of the lower peninsula. I live in such a beautiful State. I‘ve lived in Michigan all my life like every one of my siblings and their families.

As I mentioned earlier, my mom had 54 grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was one of six and had 11 kids. I was the oldest of the 7 that survived. My dad was one of 13. So, I come from a really big Polish Catholic family that I enjoy.

Who was Polish, your father or your mother?

My father was 100% Polish. He came to the US from Warsaw. They actually had one of their 13 children on the boat on their way over here. My maiden name is polish, Kaczorowski. On the other hand, my mom had Irish, French and American Indian-heritage.



A Conversation with Samuel Baumgardner-Kranz with the Sonoma County

Samuel Baumgardner-Kranz, Senior Engineer with Sonoma County

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

TSP2 is reaching out to local Agencies with the intent to better understand their bridge preservation needs and develop valuable tools that the Agencies can use. To reach this goal, TSP2 created the “Local Agency Outreach” National Working Group that is chaired by Gregg Freeman with KwikBond and Travis Kinney with David Evans and Associates.

The Working Group has already developed training modules on bridge preservation for local Agencies. The Group is also facilitating communication between local Agencies and the FHWA Bridge Preservation Expert Taskforce Group (BPETG) as well as the National Center for Pavement Preservation (NCPP). In addition, through the work of the “Local Agency Outreach” Working Group, local Agencies are getting an avenue to participate in the TSP2 Bridge Preservation regional meetings.

To learn about local Agencies and the challenges that they face addressing bridge preservation, I had an in-depth conversation with Samuel Baumgardner-Kranz, Senior Engineer with the Sonoma County in Northern California [https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/development-services/transportation-and-public-works/divisions/roads/services/bridges].

What are your main responsibilities with Sonoma County?

My role is primarily to oversee the bridge design group for our local Agency’s owned bridges. Sonoma County has 325 bridges in the National Bridge Inventory plus many other shorter structures. Generally, I work on the capital improvement design projects. I also assist our maintenance group with technical problems when it comes to bridge preservation. I serve as the subject matter specialist when it comes to transportation structures, which include retaining walls, bridges, and culverts.

Do you oversee a team at Sonoma County?

I personally oversee two staff primarily working with projects related to federally funded bridge replacement projects. On the maintenance end we have one full work crew, which is composed of four people. The crew is overseen by a construction engineer, who consults with me as we undertake bridge preservation activities.

How have you built your bridge preservation knowledge?

It can be a bit challenging to learn about bridge preservation. I’ve been trained since college with the purpose of learning about bridge design. Formal education is in fact primarily focused on new bridge design and there is not a lot of education out there for one to pursue concerning bridge preservation.

Manufacturers of preservation products often provide a very good source of learning. However, their information doesn’t always translate well in activities because of procurement requirements.

As I said before, I am always on the lookout for learning opportunities, but I personally haven’t found great single sources for building my knowledge about bridge preservation if you exclude the TSP2 web site. I often look for state Agency’s published knowledge and practices. Unfortunately, many of them keep that expertise internally.

You said that you get valuable information from the manufacturers, but then you can have issues with procurement. Can you explain?

In California you cannot just source a single product. To procure work or products, we need to set up a competitive bid, or issue a statement of public interested that says that no other product can provide a solution to the specific application pertaining to the project. In essence, we cannot choose to spend a lot of money with a single manufacturer without a competitive bid unless there is a very good reason to do it.  For example, this is the case of the crash barrier systems. Some counties only procure one manufacturer’s system, so as to make parts’ replacement and maintenance simpler and cheaper.

The solution that we prefer is when we have a general specification that can be fulfilled by multiple manufacturers, so that the work can be competitively bid. However, this solution does not really work for new, innovative products that have a few, or no, competitors. It is true that we can push a new product through and get it used even if it is single source, but the process is not easy and takes extra work to prove that it is a responsible and ethical use of public money.

Do you support the bridge preservation concept?

Bridge preservation is important first and foremost for the environment. Keeping bridges in service as long as you can instead of replacing them is a good environmental practice. It takes a lot of material, disposal, and carbon emissions to produce a new bridge, far less to preserve one.

There may be a few caveats to this preservation concept though. In our County, we have a lot of bridges over waterways. It is not unusual for these bridges to be designed with old practices that have negative features for fish passage, fish habitat, or other natural habitats. So, it can be a good solution to build new bridges that can have a restorative benefit for the natural habitat when the old bridges deteriorate to the point that they are suitable for replacement. Bridge replacement for habitat restoration is not usually something our transportation Agency will plan though. It can be considered as an added benefit when we plan the replacement of old bridges over waterways.

As I said before, generally speaking, the better environmental choice is to keep bridges in service for as long as possible rather than seeking to replace them.

Could you expand about the benefits of replacing old bridges that go over waterways?

Sometimes when the span isn’t long enough, it can constrict the channel. This constriction increases velocity of water on the downstream edge of the bridge, which causes an increase of foundation scour. Upstream, it impounds sediment, which changes the sediment load in the stream and effects the streambed and the water quality. All of this, in general, negatively impacts the natural habitat.

By replacing an under-length bridge with a new bridge that fully clears the channel and allows a natural waterway, we can improve the habitat of the species living within it as well as protect the foundations of the bridge in the long term. This is something we are focusing on in our bridge replacement projects and that has been found to be highly desirable by our various environmental protection Agencies like the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, and various others like the Army Corps of Engineers.

As an example, we are currently replacing a bridge whose span is about 40 feet long, while the natural channel requires a bridge about 200 feet long. There is a substantial buildup of sediment behind the bridge that has covered the natural riverbed, which is a fish spawning habitat, and has blocked water passage. We’re designing the geometrics of the new bridge to reduce this problem and improve the situation over the existing condition. The new bridge will not be impacted by the river, and vice-versa. In the end, bridge replacement can be a good environmental choice, even though, as I said before, in general it is better to keep the current bridges in place for as long as it can serve.

Could you speak of the bridge preservation activities that are currently implemented by Sonoma County?

We have limited funding available for bridge preservation activities, which are selected based on their value for the public. We consequently focus on actions that provide immediate safety, which is top priority, then drivability such as repair of barrier rails, deck cleaning, patching, and resurfacing.

We don’t have the funding or staff available to implement larger scale or more labor-intensive bridge preservation activities, such as bearing replacement and painting. Even a joint replacement project can be a challenge to get done because of lack of the funding availability.

Our political leaders are often calling on us to define a dollar value for a preservation work. Unfortunately, this is a quite difficult evaluation. It entails the financial quantification of the damage that will likely result over time from preservation work that does not get done. It is a challenge to quantify this potential damage in a way that can satisfying political leaders who are trying to make difficult financial decisions.

The truth is that unless there is an emergency situation, we do not get funding for major preservation work.

It is definitively easier to calculate the value of work that gets done rather than the potential damage that results from the work that is not done. Communicating the value of bridge preservation can be challenging.

If I can say to our political leaders that $10,000 spent today will save $100,000 down the line, then I would have a lot easier time making the argument and getting funding for bridge preservation. However, I have not found the tools that allows me to make that argument.

It is also not up to me to create such tools. I have limited expertise with bridge preservation and there are no other bridge specialists in my department. My staff is not formally trained in bridges or structures, but their expertise is in the federal aid procurement process. So, the only other sources of expertise I can rely on a day-to-day basis are colleagues outside of my department and consultants. However, consultants are typically trained in bridge replacement or new design rather than in bridge preservation.

I am not aware of AASHTO publications for bridge preservation. Having an authority providing guidance and standards about bridge preservation could be extremely helpful for local Agencies.

AASHTO released a bridge preservation guide in 2021. Are you familiar with it?

Yes, I am familiar with this guide. It is high level and does not actually provide practical information that I can take far.

What bridge preservation action do you do more frequently?

We do deck washing pretty regularly.

Having so many bridges over water, do you encounter any environmental issues with deck washing?

We do not have any environmental issue with deck washing, which is not different from rain washing off the bridge. We do not use any solvents, but we simply scrape the deck, sweep dirt and debris, and rinse the deck off. We do not always rinse the deck after cleaning.

We do not use salts in Sonoma County since we do not have snow and ice. We have just one bridge where it may snow every few years. So, our deck washing is just about making the deck drivable and keeping the drainage clean rather than implementing actions to prevent corrosion from de-icing salts.

You spoke earlier about lack of funding to implement bridge preservation activities regularly. Could you go more in-depth?

At Sonoma County we have local funding for small and basic preservation activities, as I mentioned earlier. To implement the more complex and expensive bridge preservation activities, our primary funding source relies on the FHWA funding, is administered through Caltrans. Federal Highways participates financially in bridge preservation activities as much as they have funding available. However, there is a cost associated with gaining access to federal funding. It involves complying with a number of reporting requirements, including compliance with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). So, there is a certain threshold cost that we evaluate before we are willing to take on a federally funded project. Right now, our policy is that we’re not going to consider federal money for projects with a construction cost less than one million dollars. Our management is discussing whether we’re going to increase this threshold, since we are finding that even a one million-dollar project is no longer providing the additional value required to dedicate staff time.  We also consider the staff costs in order to manage compliance with federal standards, the impact schedules, and delays associated with federal funding procedures.

For example, we currently have a 24-bridge project where methacrylate is specified as deck treatment. The treatment is time-dependent since the methacrylate doesn’t work as effectively when cracks get too large. This will likely happen if the treatment is applied too late in the maintenance cycle, since cyclical traffic loading increases the size of cracks over time, if they are not properly treated. We have been prepared to bid this methacrylate project for about three years now. Unfortunately, the federal funding hasn’t been available, and so they haven’t authorized us to proceed with the methacrylate deck treatment. These are the kind of considerations that make taking federal money for bridge preservation actions less attractive.

When the Federal Highway is not meeting expectations, for whatever reason, such as staffing or funding availability, it can get incredibly challenging for our County to meet our obligation to implement a project. The issue becomes more complicated when standards for design and construction change or time-out during the delays. When this happens, we have to employ people to update the projects and then we have to reapply for additional funding to cover overages incurred to update the standards implemented during the delay. Then the project very likely gets delayed again while we wait for funding approval, which could trigger another update, review and wait cycle. Sometimes working on a federally funded project feels like being stuck in a hamster wheel. It can last forever since there are so many levels of approval, review, and funding procurement that happens with it. It seems as if everybody’s solution to these sorts of deadlock problems is to add another level of reporting and oversight which compounds the problem rather than solving it.

Another issue to be considered is the inconsistency of funding availability.  Now that the transportation bill, [the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – Ed Note], went through, there’s going to be more money available to California for transportation. At this point, we do not know how much money the State is going to make available to Local Agencies, but, for sure, it will be a one-time deal. Local Agencies will have to hire people to manage projects. However, it will be difficult to convince the board of supervisors that it’s justified to hire four or five more people for a source of funding that’s only going to last for limited number of years.

It’s not easy for Sonoma County to staff up and then reduce staffing after the need is gone. It takes staff to put the funding to good use since you cannot consult everything out. Even if we consult most of the technical work out, we still need people to manage the consultants and set their priorities. What we need is a permanent source of funding that allows hiring of permanent, expert staff, who can make the best use of the money.

I think that consistency of funding is a very important topic. It is evident that you cannot build a solid team based on temporary funding. Is this a reoccurring issue?

I have been personally dealing with the problem of consistency of funding to this day. A lot of my projects are legacies stemming from a funding influx after the great recession of 2008. The projects were authorized around 2012 when Sonoma County was offered funding and accepted it. Unfortunately, the County didn’t actually have the staff to properly manage and execute the projects, which consisted of almost 20 bridge replacements. With only two or three people available to work on the projects, the projects couldn’t progress individually as much they needed to per the federal funding requirements. This is despite the fact that the staff worked very hard, to the point of burnout. Several people quit due to overwork and frustration with the process. Over time, as Agencies were completing their projects, the funding source dried up while many projects were still in progress.

Our County ended up in a sort of a limbo that still lingers on. We are expected to deliver these replacement projects, but the funding sources are no longer there. I was hired and assigned staff to execute these backlog projects. Meanwhile, the County had to return a large amount of FHWA money from projects that failed to meet schedule requirements. And that’s again the consequence of one-time funding that did not make the County confident to keep enough staff on hand to manage the projects effectively. It is also the consequence of the fact that lower priority projects losing funding when others in the grant program go over budget.

Comparing with a number of local Agencies that I’m familiar with in California, Sonoma County is remarkably well staffed for bridges. I can think of only one other County that actually has a structural engineer with a background in bridges and transportation structures. I am privileged to have such background as well as a staff of two people, which, however, is still a small group for the scale of projects we manage. The expertise gap gets much wider when local Agencies are smaller than Sonoma County, such as cities with low population or lower population rural Counties. These local Agencies often have just one person who is doing both pavement and bridge preservation. Not having have in-house expertise of all preservation activities, these Agencies must rely on consultants that are hired on a project-by-project basis and supported by temporary funding. However, consultants are expensive, they lack local knowledge, and have the County’s best interest in mind only as far they are professionally obligated. There are pluses and minuses to consulting versus in-house expertise, but I think that the latter is always the desirable choice, when practicable.

Can you explain the process of giving money back because federal requirements were not met by the County?

It is not that Sonoma County had a pot of money and we gave that money back. We paid the consultants and specialists for the projects out of our own pocket. Then the County used the grant to reimburse the money that was spent. When some projects failed because they did not meet the federal schedule requirements, we had to pay back the money that was reimbursed, which was approximately three quarters of a million dollars. In our case, several contributing factors for not meeting schedule were outside of our control, and included delays from the Caltrans/FHWA oversite, who are also not appropriately staffed. Caltrans administers the program that allows Counties to receive grants from FHWA.

We failed to meet what is called the 10-year rule [CFR Title 23, § 630.112 (2), interpreted by FHWA Order 5020.1A – Ed Note]. Since we could not show substantial progress with the projects, the funding could not be extended. This is the way the highway program works for us. I must say that it was really painful to pay back the grant, which was money we spent on those projects. Accepting grant money actually ended up taking money away from our bridge program. We could have put that money to good use elsewhere.

So, at this point it may be challenging for your County to take on significant bridge projects.

Yes, it is unlikely that we’re going to take on much from the most recent transportation bill. As we discussed, we are still clearing out the backlog of projects that were initiated with funding from 2012. We are desperately fighting to meet our obligations so we do not to have to return more money. Most likely we will not start any projects as a result of new funding anytime soon. I am glad someone else is going to get the transportation bill funding so that they can start new projects and complete projects they have on hold.

It would be ideal if the transportation bill money could be used to fund existing programs, such as the Highway Bridge Program. However, it appears as if this money is dedicated to implement a new grant program, called the Bridge Investment Program. This may be frustrating for the local Agencies. It means that existing projects will not receive help, and the Counties will have to learn new grant rules to achieve funding in order to complete these projects.

You mentioned Caltrans. What is your relationship with Caltrans? Do you have any form of collaboration with them?

Caltrans has taken on the effort of inspecting every bridge in California in the national inventory. Therefore, they inspect all of our bridges, identify deficiencies and make recommendations for maintenance and repairs. This service is extremely valuable. We do not have in-house expertise or time for it.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, Caltrans has also been given delegated authority for federal grants by the Federal Highway Administration. Caltrans administers all the federal funding that comes to the State for the local Agencies and provides assistance to make sure that local Agencies meet the federal requirements. Caltrans also provides assistance in terms of procedures and manuals in order to meet these requirements. All of this is pretty helpful.

We also completely rely on the technical information published by Caltrans, such as amendments to the AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specification, seismic design manuals, construction manuals, and all sorts of bridge technical information. Caltrans is very good at bridge design, and we follow their lead.

For locally funded projects, however, we are on our own. Caltrans is not really interested in providing us with technical assistance for our bridges. I think that’s a fair stance since they have their own bridges, but more active technical help from them would be welcome.

What do you mean when you say “more active technical help” from Caltrans?

Caltrans does not provide any training to the County or, as policy, make staff available to take technical calls. I do have some relationship with Caltrans people that I use informally. However, if I have questions, such as how to approach a joint seal project or a bearing replacement, I am essentially on my own. I need to figure it out.

I am a bridge engineer who knows how to design new bridges but I don’t necessarily know how to set up plans and specifications for a bearing or a joint seal replacement, or something like that, so as to contract it out correctly. To do so, I must develop a skill set in standard practices for bridge preservation. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of places for me to develop that skill set. The County does not necessarily have the resources to pay someone to train me in that either, if such a training exists.

My counterpart who manages pavement preservation gets more attention, support, staff, and funding than what I get managing bridge preservation. This is because the benefits of pavement preservation are easily perceived by the public and elected leaders. Their results are obvious and immediate. Everybody likes riding on a smooth road. So, it is politically popular to spend money on pavement preservation, which, to be clear, is very important. On the other hand, the benefits of bridge preservation are more difficult perceive. Unless you have a major disaster, such as the collapse of a bridge, it is a lot harder to convince people to invest in bridge preservation. Nobody gets excited by joint seal replacements, except for me and the bridge maintenance crew.

In Minneapolis, where I live, there was a major bridge failure in 2007. It was a tragedy. Thirteen people died, and many more were injured. Bridge collapse must be avoided at any cost.

We’ve been fortunate in Sonoma County to have not had any bridge collapses, only minor bridge problems and safe failures. Recently we had to close a couple of bridges because there was a condition that posed an immediate threat to safety. Thankfully, we were able to identify this condition before it caused harm.

If there is an issue that keeps me up at night, it is the scour, since in our County there are some bridges for which the scour is critical. Scour problems are probably the hardest ones for me to approach. Whereas the required scour countermeasures are pretty simple, the approach to a scour countermeasure project is complex. For each bridge we must produce detailed planning and design work to receive permits from four Agencies, which are the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service, and the California Water Boards. A lot of documentation is required by these Agencies to get permits. This effort is very staff intensive even though the actual amount of construction work is small. The professional costs can actually match the cost of construction.

It can take two months of my time to get a permit for scour measures for an individual bridge. It is evidently more cost effective for the County to put this time towards the very high dollar value of capital improvement projects for which I was hired. So, it is almost inevitable for me to put off scour work.

I presume that the permitting effort requires structural engineering knowledge but also knowledge of hydraulics and environmental issues. It does appear to be quite a complex work to me.

Yes, obtaining scour permits is a complex work indeed. In several instances we do not have in-house expertise to do the work, which includes hydraulics, geomorphology design, structural design and environmental studies. In these instances, we give the work out to consultants, provided we reach a certain minimum dollar value that makes the work worth bidding on.

As I have already said, the scour on some of our bridges is critical. This actually keeps me up at night since a lot of the bridge failures that I’m familiar with in California have been from scour. We have rain that comes only at certain times of the year and all at once, we have mountainous terrain and we have a lot of alluvial soils. In our State we have all those conditions that can cause scour, such as rain that comes only at certain times of the year and all at once, mountainous terrain and a lot of alluvial soils.

Recently, in our County, a Caltrans bridge over the Russian River failed quietly. Caltrans closed the bridge when the fire department noticed that it was leaning over a little bit more than normal. Caltrans assessed the bridge and they were able to close it before it collapsed or caused harm. The replacement bridge was built in a hurry. Not having the time to plan properly and do all the necessary hydraulic studies, the new bridge is now having scour problems. Working in an emergency situation with limited time is never the best practice. Scour is definitively a big problem here in California.

I think that climate change doesn’t help since it makes events more concentrated and dramatic. Do you see the impact of climate change on the bridges in Sonoma County?

My County has become famous for how heavily we have been impacted by the early effects of climate change. We’ve been on fire almost every year. We had huge, enormous wildfires that affected the bridges in many ways.

First, fires remove vegetation which controls erosion. This exacerbates the bridges’ scour issues.

Sometimes bridges actually burn. This can affect the strength of the concrete, which is really difficult to evaluate without taking cores and testing them. There is also the possibility that steel may have softened because of the heat, which can cause problems in the short and long term.

Falling trees are also a problem. When the root structure burns, trees can fall on bridges. This has happened a few times in our County.

Also, in order to fight these fires, we had particularly heavy equipment going over bridges that were not designed for that type of traffic, which was worrisome.

Wildfires driven by climate change are definitively a huge problem for our bridge system in Sonoma County. Safe, redundant crossings is important in our County because we never know when a route will become an evacuation one, or if a route will be cut off.

What are your goals with bridge preservation in the short and long term?

My vision for the short term is to make sure that everybody has at least one safe route to and from their destination. Sometimes a bridge is the only available way to destination. So, I want to make sure that if there’s no detour available, bridges stay open. That’s my short-term goal.

For the long term, I would love to see sufficiency ratings of my bridges go up. The ratings have been steadily dropping for Sonoma County and for the other local Agencies in California since the 1990s when funding available started to dry up. [Sufficiency ratings data for the National Bridge Inventory can be found in the FHWA LTBP Info Bridge website, see https://infobridge.fhwa.dot.gov/ Ed Note]. I am aware that reaching this long-term goal may be challenging. It may require convincing the public to fund bridge preservation, finding more sources of funding, or redirecting funding.

When sufficiency ratings go up, I can maintain bridges and keep them in service for longer, rather than having to replace them. One thing I’ve learned from my capital improvement projects is that our local communities love their bridges, even basic bridges that no one expects people to love. Replacements can upset the community. This is another reason for keeping bridges in service for as long as one possibly can.

The old design life for bridges was 50 years, the new design calls for 75 years. If I could keep bridges in service for 150 years, or indefinitely through maintenance, that would be awesome. This is my vision for the future.

Can you say something about you, such as your professional career and what you like to do in your free time?

I went to school for structural engineering focusing specifically on bridges and I am a licensed Structural Engineer in the state of California. Sonoma County is one of the very few Agencies that has a licensed Structural Engineer in their Transportation Department.

I have been practicing engineering for about ten years. In my early career I targeted inspection work and construction work because I wanted to learn the practical side of engineering. Later I joined a bridge design firm and spent a few years designing bridges, retaining walls, and culverts. When I found this opportunity with the County of Sonoma, I was fortunate to be selected. I’ve been with the County of Sonoma as the lead of their bridge division for four years now.

In my free time I like to garden, hike, build things, and play video games. Gardening, both vegetables and flowers, is perhaps my biggest hobby which I share with my wife.

You have been working on getting an additional Structural Engineering license. Have you achieved it?

Yes, I recently received a Structural Engineer license, which can be sought after gaining experience as a licensed Professional Engineer. A Structural Engineer license is required in California for certain life-safety critical infrastructure, such as schools, emergency shelters, police stations, and hospitals. I would argue that bridges are part of these structures even though State requirements do not necessarily agree with me.

Definitively, bridges are always on your mind.

I do love bridges, including bicycle and pedestrian bridges. I would like to see federal funding available for these types of bridges too. I think that increasing the number of pedestrian bridges and bike routes is an important step towards meeting climate change goals. It is surprisingly hard to get bike projects off the ground in our State. We cannot even add sidewalks or bike lanes on federally eligible bridges if the roadway approaching the bridge doesn’t have them. Without a doubt, we are very attached to our cars in California.

Bridge Preservation Training for Local Agencies

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

The Local Agency Outreach TSP2 Working Group has developed a new program, the Bridge Preservation Training for local Agencies, whose main points are reported in the “Low-Cost Maintenance to Save Bridges” flier. The flier, which is published on the TSP2 web site, can be found on the Local Agency Outreach Working Group page, following the link: “Local Agency Outreach Introduction White Paper.

The new program is in line with one of the strategic goals of TSP2 that entails extending the use of bridge preservation practices from DOTs to local Agencies, such as Cities, Counties and Municipalities. In order to learn more about the program, I spoke with Gregg Freeman, Director of Business Development with Kwik Bond Polymers and chair of the Working Group, and with Travis Kinney, Major Bridge Maintenance Engineer with Oregon DOT, co-chair of the Working Group, and project leader. I also contacted Pat Conner with Indiana LTAP for information concerning this State.

How was this new program formulated?

Travis Kinney, Major Bridge Maintenance Engineer with Oregon DOT

Travis Kinney – The TSP2 Partnership recognized that the local Agencies did not have enough presence and influence in the Bridge Preservation Partnership group. I do not mean to say that there are not active members from local Agencies in TSP2, but their number and their level of influence is not proportional to the amount of bridge inventory they manage. As a consequence, a TSP2 Working Group was developed to look at ways to improve the outreach to local bridge owners with the goal to educate them about the benefits of preservation practices. Setting up a bridge maintenance training for local Agencies was an idea that spawned naturally out of this effort.

The Local Agency Outreach Working Group has progressed to include great participation from a wide range of local Agencies. This participation has helped the group in many respects including the design of ways to advertise training opportunities. These encompass advertising the activity of the Working Group in the National Local Technical Assistance Program Association (NLTAPA) (see LINKS) newsletters, the creation of a flier, and even a poster-board to be displayed at the national LTAP conference, which unfortunately was canceled because of COVID-19.

What is the purpose of the program?

Gregg Freeman, Director of Business Development with Kwik Bond Polymers

Gregg Freeman – We aim to educate local Agency managers on the benefits of preservation versus replacement of bridges. Preservation is a proven methodology that saves taxpayers’ money over the long term.  At this point, there isn’t nearly enough money available to replace bridges that are in “poor” condition.  Preservation is the only methodology to be considered in order to close the gap.

What are the key elements of the program?

Gregg Freeman – A strict collaboration with LTAP people is essential in order to implement our process of soliciting local Agencies to adopt bridge preservation practices. We thought that a simple and effective way to initiate this collaboration was to create a non-proprietary presentation, titled “Bridge Preservation For Local Agencies”.

This presentation, which was the first output of our TSP2 Working Group, is intended to be given as part of the “Lunch & Learn” LTAP training program throughout the US. The intent of the presentation is to underscore the importance of a pro-active bridge preservation approach, summarized in the “Keep Good Bridges Good” mantra, as opposed to a reactive “Worst First” methodology that should not be the focal point of any asset management plan.

Travis Kinney – The Working Group is now focused on identifying barriers that prevent obtaining funds for preservation at local levels. As a result of this effort, the group identified that federal funds are rarely used at local levels for preservation activities. Replacement and major rehabilitation tend to be favored in existing projects’ selection processes. In addition, state funding tends to favor the “Worst-First” approach.

Another key initiative of the Working Group that has just started entails the review of asset management plans by local Agencies in order to determine whether they create a framework that favors replacement instead of preservation practices.

Who is the target audience of the “Bridge Preservation For Local Agencies” presentation?

Gregg Freeman – It is a large target audience. It includes Cities, Counties, Municipalities, Tribal Agencies and every group involved with educating local Agencies, such as LTAP, NACE, FHWA, State DOT’s and AASHTO.

Has this presentation already been given?

Travis Kinney – The presentation is ready to be given and is being advertised through the NLTAPA Working Group members.  In April of this year, I gave a trial run of the presentation virtually to over 30 LTAP representatives. The presentation was well received and the Working Group has gained interest in setting up virtual training opportunities.

Can you tell me more about the issue concerning access to federal funds?

Travis Kinney – As I mentioned earlier, how to get access to federal funds for preservation is a point of key interest for local Agencies.

We had reached out to our contacts at TSP2 for good examples of funding for local Agencies, specifically for preservation. When they told us that they had a hard time finding these examples, we started working with the Bridge Preservation Expert Task Group (BPETG) from FHWA (see LINKS) so as to establish a study, or a survey, that can be valid on the national scale. This is being framed out.  The key question that we would like to have answered through the collaboration with BPETG entails barriers for getting funds down from federal to local level for preservation.  The best funding example we have found so far entails the state of Indiana, which has done a great job of promoting preservation at the local level.

Pat Conner, LTAP Research Manager with Purdue University

Pat Conner – The Indiana transportation funding system encourages preservation through different avenues, such as the use of revenue from the gas tax that is distributed to locals, a new state funded matching grant fund, and obviously locally generated funds. The Indiana model is however difficult to duplicate in other states because most of the funds used for preservation are funded locally or from state generated funding. In Indiana federal funding is not currently being utilized for preservation.

Indiana has the Motor Vehicle Highway Account, which is heavily funded through gas and diesel taxes. Local Agencies are required to spend at least 50% of this account toward construction, reconstruction, and preservation. Indiana also has a matching grant fund for local Agencies that is funded through vehicle registrations and a portion of the gas tax. In order to get access to this fund, local Agencies are required to have an asset management plan in place. Between the funding availability for preservation, the asset management requirements, and the training being provided for asset management by LTAP, Indiana is the forefront of creating a culture that encourages local Agencies to re-look at their project priorities and preferred practices.

Gregg Freeman – In some cases, bridge preservation is still being confused with major rehabilitation and replacement. One of the first examples of federal funding for local Agencies we received from FHWA was under the banner of bridge preservation but it actually involved major rehabilitation and replacement. It did not entail preservation, as it is defined by AASHTO TSP2 as “actions or strategies that prevent, delay or reduce deterioration of bridges or bridge elements, restore the function of existing bridges, keep bridges in good condition and extend their life”.

Could you share details about the current state of the program’s implementation?

Gregg Freeman –  Travis gave a webinar organized by the National LTAP that was attended by 30 people. I had the opportunity to give a preliminary version of the “Bridge Preservation For Local Agencies” presentation at the annual county bridge conference organized by Indiana LTAP at Purdue University on October 29 and 30, 2019. I was invited by Pat Conner, who has been instrumental in creating such a good training program for local Agencies in Indiana.

Travis Kinney – We have had tremendous support for doing more in-person presentations. North Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Illinois had all reached out to our Working Group because of their interest in the program. This was in early March. Since then in-person training has been put on hold due to the COVID restrictions. We are now shifting gears and looking at virtual training opportunities to sustain the Working Group’s momentum.

The training comes at no cost for those attending. Who pays for it?

Gregg Freeman – When in-person meetings can be organized again, we are counting on the collaboration of volunteers from the local LTAPs, local FHWA, State DOTs and industry.

Primarily we are looking for industry folks who volunteer as presenters, preferably with a partner from a State DOT. We already have a list of potential industry presenters. We are relying on LTAP to help set up the meetings and provide a venue. Alternatively, the venue can be provided by State DOTs that participate in the program. The FHWA BPETG is also supporting this effort.

Travis Kinney – With virtual meetings the organization process could be simplified. However, at this point, organizing virtual meetings on a national scale is a work-in-progress with a number of pieces to be defined.



Local Agency Outreach Working Group

National Local Technical Assistance Program Association (NLTAPA)

Bridge Preservation Expert Task Group (BPETG)


A Conversation with John Hooks, TSP2 Bridge Preservation

John Hooks with TSP2 Bridge Preservation

By Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

John Hooks is a key part of the TSP2 Bridge Preservation team. He combines depth of engineering knowledge and technical competence about bridges with great people skills, the ability to listen and to build strong personal relationships.  I had a chance to ask John a few questions at the recent TSP2 Midwest Bridge Preservation Partnership (MWBPP) meeting that took place in Bismarck, ND.

Could you outline the pivotal points of your career as bridge engineer and speak of your professional experience with FHWA?

 I joined the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 1967 after receiving a BSCE and an MSCE in Structural Engineering at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY. After rotating through several short assignments on a training program, I served as the Assistant Division Bridge Engineer in FHWA’s New York Division office. In 1975 I transferred to the FHWA Office of Research & Development in the Washington, DC area. This transfer helped define the remainder of my career with FHWA as a specialist in bridge engineering. I spent 23 years developing programs to implement the results of research done by FHWA as well as certain research done by state DOTs and the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP).

The main focal points of my work were bridge inspection, bridge management and bridge preservation. Two of the most notable results were: the 1990 Bridge Inspector’s Training Manual and the associated training courses; and the original DOS version of the bridge management system, Pontis – the basis of the current AASHTO BrM.

The final several years of my FHWA career, I served in the Research section of FHWA Office of R&D where I was the Director of Structures Research. I retired from FHWA at the end of 2004.

How did you get in contact with the TSP2 team? When did you join TSP2 Bridge Preservation?

In 2006, I joined an engineering firm, ENCINC in Virginia. One of my early projects with ENCINC was an FHWA study to develop a Transportation System Preservation (TSP) Research, Development, and Implementation Roadmap which FHWA published in 2008. The TSP2 team at the National Center for Pavement Preservation was a subcontractor to ENCINC for this project and I came to know the TSP2 team well.

Two other projects followed where I served as a consultant to NCPP. I first learned about the TSP2 Bridge Preservation program when I gave a presentation at the 2010 WBPP meeting. In 2012, I became a regular member of the NCPP TSP2 team and have been involved with the Bridge Preservation program and all its activities since then.

What are your main responsibilities at TSP2?

At TSP2, I have multiple responsibilities. The main one is working closely with all four of the Regional Partnerships and assisting with the development, organization and conduct of the annual regional meetings and the national meetings that take place every four years.

Each meeting attracts from 180 to 200 attendees, including industry representatives from 45 to 50 companies who exhibit.

I participate in all of the regular monthly calls and work closely with the eight TSP2 national Working Groups, such as the Bridge Management Systems Working Group for which I am recording secretary.

As a staff member at NCPP, I also work on research projects that the Center undertakes under contract with clients such as FHWA, NCHRP and Michigan DOT.

What do you enjoy of these responsibilities? On the other hand, what do you find most challenging?

Many aspects of my responsibilities are enjoyable. Meeting and collaborating with bridge preservation experts across the nation is satisfying as well as highly educational. There are always new things to learn about bridges and bridge preservation.

Working closely with the many attendees and with the members of the national Working Groups is rewarding, especially in that these volunteer groups develop products that have a significant impact on the practice of bridge preservation.

Of course, travel to the various meeting sites is almost always a pleasure. Partly because of my position at NCPP I have been in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and several foreign nations.

Two of the most challenging aspects of the position are the breadth of preservation technology that I need to be aware of and understand plus the difficulty in measuring the impact of the TSP2 activities on the bridge infrastructure. In many cases, the scope of the impact cannot be determined until many years have passed.

How does your bridge preservation experience at TSP2 differs from FHWA?

The main difference is that with FHWA my efforts were in pursuit of new technology for inspection, management and preservation of bridges. With TSP2, the main thrust of my efforts is to connect with a wide audience of bridge preservation practitioners and assist them in identifying, assessing and ultimately adopting new practices that improve their ability to preserve bridges.

What is your vision for TSP2 Bridge Preservation? What works? What would you like to improve?

The TSP2 program maintains contact with a wide audience of bridge preservation practitioners in state DOTs, local agencies, FHWA, academia and the private sector. The TSP2 staff has several avenues for maintaining a dialogue with those people: through management of the annual regional meetings and the quadrennial national meeting; through participation with the national bridge preservation Working Groups, the FHWA BPETG, and relevant TRB committees; and by providing technical services to the partnerships and individual agencies. This constant communication is the backbone of a collaboration that works quite well. Additionally, over the years, NCPP has amassed an unparalleled library of technical information on a broad range of bridge preservation topics.

What I would like to see happen is that to a greater degree than now, the TSP2 program be recognized as the first stop for bridge preservation information. The other thing I would like to see is a strengthening of current efforts to involve and deliver that information to local bridge owning agencies.

Would you like to share something about your personal life? Are you a morning or an evening person? What do you do like to do in your free time? What is your favorite book?

Sure thing. I am married, and my wife Linda and I have six children and a dozen grandchildren. In addition to enjoying all of them, Linda and I love to travel overseas and experience different cultures, languages and environments.

Most of my life I have been a morning person and for my entire adult life I have been a “fitness buff” and a runner for over 55 years. I do play a little golf (poorly) but my main passion for my free time is reading, mysteries and historical non-fiction being my favorite genres. My favorite book of all time is John Barry’s masterpiece “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927”, a fantastic book about Mother Nature, human nature and the engineering of civil works.

Reports from the MWBPP Working Groups

Author: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

At the recent TSP2 Midwest Bridge Preservation Partnership (MWBPP) meeting that took place in Minneapolis, the Working Groups met to discuss the status of their activity and outline future developments.  I asked the leaders of the Working Group meetings in Minneapolis if they could write a summary for the Blog.

Preservation Matrix: Dave Juntunen, Michigan DOT

Dave Juntunen with Michigan DOT

The working group concurred that the preservation matrix is still desired and the working group should be continued. New members volunteer.

The current deliverable of the working group is an Excel spreadsheet showing what preservation activities the partner states do by contract and state maintenance forces. Unfortunately few people ever see the matrix or even know of its existence. The group would like to update the matrix and make it available to the bridge preservation community by placing it on the on the TSP2 MWBPP website. The matrix should be updated to include links to training and state specifications. Analysis of the matrix can be done to show trends in preservation and a blog written to introduce the website and provide outreach to partner states and local agencies.

Systematic Preventive Maintenance (SPM): Scott Stotlemeyer (chair), Missouri DOT

Scott Stotlemeyer with Missouri DOT

25 attendees met to discuss the current and future scope and deliverables of the MWBPP’s Systematic Preventive Maintenance (SPM) working group.   The working group serves to collect information regarding member states’ status in having an FHWA-approved SPM program.  The working group delivers a synthesis of member states’ participation in a program and any SPM-related information (e.g., contacts, agreements, guidelines, etc.) they are willing to provide on a triennial basis.  The last of which was released in November 2016 and is available through a link on the “MWBPP Working Group” page of the TSP2 Bridge Preservation website.

Those in attendance agreed the working group’s scope and deliverable were still relevant, as some member states were still working on developing or improving their SPM program and the information provided was of benefit to them.  In addition, attendees expressed their interest in a list of potentially eligible SPM activities – possibly ones preapproved by FHWA for inclusion in an SPM program.

Additional discussion within the group involved guidelines, processes, and equipment used to perform SPM activities with in-house forces and specifications for performing SPM activities through contract under an SPM program.

Deterioration Modeling: Fouad Jaber (chair), Nebraska DOR

Fouad Jaber with Nebraska DOR

12 people attend the working session.  The discussion went in the direction of continuing this effort.  Fouad will contact member states to find out their practices and needs for deterioration models.  We may create a pooled fund to address MWBPP State needs and bridge the gap between BrM and states practice. A survey will help focus the effort to what is needed.  The National efforts (BRM and LTBP) as well as individual state tools will be considered.  Hooman (Rutgers) from the LTBP will help with access to the LTBP Portal.   The survey will also identify the appropriate person in each state that we should coordinate with.  We may use pooled fund to reduce the data.  There will be a conference call in near future with Working Group to set up the survey




Emphasis on Case Studies at the MWBPP Meeting in Early November

Author: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

Bridge preservation case studies will be featured at the 2017 Midwest Bridge Preservation Partnership (MWBPP) meeting held at the Marriott City Center in Minneapolis, MN on November 6-8. The meeting will also focus on actions for deck and joint preservation and emergency response procedures for exceptional events, such as flooding, bridge hits and fire.

Bridge preservation practitioners attending the meeting represent the States that are part of the Midwest TSP2 Partnership region: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin. At the meeting preservation practitioners from DOTs and other owners will be interacting with contractors, consultants, academia and manufacturers that have a stake in bridge preservation in the Midwest region. Manufacturers will also have an opportunity for showcasing their products and technologies.

As with all TSP2 Bridge Preservation Partnership meetings, time will be dedicated to round tables where owners, consultants, academia, manufacturers and contractors can exchange information related to their experience with bridge preservation, underscoring challenges and solutions for extending the service life of concrete and steel bridges.

MWBPP mission is to provide a platform for bridge preservation practitioners to exchange, promote and advance best practices, new technologies and innovation in the areas of highway bridge management, inspections, preservation and maintenance.

For information please contact Darlene Lane at 517-432-8220 and email hidden; JavaScript is required


2017 MWBPP Annual Meeting

Deck Preservation and Retaining Systems are Key Topics at the Upcoming NEBPP in NJ

Author: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

In less than two months, on September 11-13, the Northeast Bridge Preservation Partnership (NEBPP) meeting is scheduled to take place in New Brunswick, NJ. The meeting encompasses four sessions: deck preservation, research needs, case studies and retaining systems.

Over 150 bridge preservation practitioners specialized in maintenance and repair of concrete and bridge structures will be gathering in New Brunswick from the States that comprise the North-East region: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In addition to representatives from the owners, the meeting will also bring together contractors, consulting engineers, academia and manufacturers, who can showcase their innovation in products and services.

As with all TSP2 Bridge Preservation Partnership meetings, time will be dedicated to round tables where participants have the opportunity to exchange information and discuss practices that extends the service life of bridges.

Through the free and open exchange of ideas and information, the NEBPP’s mission is to better serve those who use the northeast transportation system. NEBPP strives to use innovation, new ideas, new products, and the combined experience of participant States to make bridge maintenance procedures and repairs the best that can be provided.

For more information please contact Darlene Lane at 517-432-8220 and email hidden; JavaScript is required



Is the Practice of Bridge Preservation Heroic?

Author: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

A recent article published in The New Yorker magazine draws a parallel between the practice of incremental care in medicine and the preservation of bridges and infrastructures.   

The author, Atul Gawande, characterizes these two practices, incremental care and preservation, as “heroism of the incremental”. They are both based on the concept of implementing policies that focus on a steady flow of repetitive actions rather than reacting on short notice to specific and often dramatic problems. The incremental approach has been proven to be economical and effective, especially in providing long term benefits. The author points out that with today’s technology, incremental practices can take advantage of the latest available tools, especially in the areas of tracking, planning and communication. At the same time Gawande underscores the fact that incrementalism is chronically lacking of funds, which may be related to the fact that its approach is not considered “heroic”, meaning that it does not produce “immediate and visible success”.  

I cannot be more in agreement with the idea of incrementalism as it is described in the article. Incrementalism is based on a different mind-set than the reactive approach usually driven by an emergency. But it is still “heroic”. It only requires another type of hero, one far from the limelight, who works day after day to either provide care for people or maintenance to structures.    

The ECC Bendable Concrete

Author: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLClorella

Recently, CNN aired a report about America’s crumbling infrastructures. One of the topics was the so-called “bendable concrete” that was presented as an innovative solution that could extend the service life of US bridges.

Bendable concrete, officially called Engineering Cement Composite (ECC), has been developed over the last 10 years by Prof Victor Li, Civil and Environmental Engineer at Michigan University, Ann Arbor, MI. ECC is designed to overcome the inherent brittleness of concrete by having high tensile ductility and the ability to self-heal tight cracks. Its ductility allows constructing safer concrete structures that bend under extreme loads but do not break.  Crack control and self-healing provide higher concrete durability in a variety of environmental conditions.

ECC has been applied in Japan for a bridge deck that it is expected to last 100 years despite severe cold weather environmental conditions and limited thickness (2 inch) of the slab. The properties of ECC concrete allow structural elements to be designed with reduced dimensions and thus can provide significant cost savings to the owners by offsetting current ECC cost by volume, which is approximately 3 times higher than ordinary concrete.

ECC was also used for bridge deck construction in Michigan on Interstate 94. The application has been closely monitored by the University of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

In 2015 ECC won the prestigious Construction Industry Council (CIC) Innovation Award with ECC.  CIC, which is based in Hong Kong, promotes sustainable innovation for the construction industry.



Read CNN news article: ”America’s infrastructure: Beams disintegrating under bridges”



Watch ECC bendable concrete’s videos:





Participate in LinkedIn discussion about “bendable concrete”



Participate in Twitter discussion about America’s crumbling infrastructures



Read ECC Wiki page



Learn about CIC and its Innovation Award



Healer-Sealers for the Protection of Bridge Decks

lorellaAuthor: Lorella Angelini, Angelini Consulting Services, LLC

It is well-known that innovation represents one of the key elements for a successful bridge preservation strategy. An interesting innovation technology for bridge deck protection entails the so called healer-sealers. These are very low viscosity liquid-applied resins that penetrate by gravity into the hairline cracks and surface pores of concrete with the result of preventing infiltration of water and contamination by chlorides.

Different healer-sealer technologies are available, such as, Methyl Methacrylate (MMA), High Molecular Weight Methacrylate (HMWM ), epoxy and polyurethane. They all have in common an application method that consists in cleaning and opening the concrete surface, flooding it with the resin, and broadcasting aggregate (mainly sacrificial) before the resin starts setting. Performance properties vary between the different technologies as outlined in the snapshot information reported below. This information, which provides a general guideline about the technologies, is taken from technical data guides of a selection of brands that are present in the bridge preservation environment.

In comparison with other bridge deck protection solutions, healer-sealers are economical technologies both in terms of material and labor. This affordability should make it easy to apply healer-sealers over new decks. However, in the majority of cases, they are applied on an already contaminated deck after a few years following the completion of bridge deck construction, which in turn generally reduces their effectiveness.. For best performances, healer-sealers should also be re-applied periodically, on average every 5-10 years depending on the rate of of deck surface deterioration by traffic.

High Molecular Weight Methacrylate (HMWM)

  1. Viscosity: <25 cPs
  2. 100% solids
  3. Elongation: 5 – 30%
  4. Compressive strength: 3,000 – 8,000 psi
  5. Tensile strength:  500 – 1500 psi
  6. Aggregate should be placed within 15 – 20 minutes of resin application
  7. Application temperature (ambient):  50 – 100
  8. Traffic reopening:  4 – 8 hrs. after application (depending on ambient temperature)
  9. Flash Point > 200 °F

Methyl methacrylate (MMA)

  1. Viscosity: <5 – 10 cPs
  2. 100% solids
  3. Elongation: 4.5 – 5%
  4. Compressive strength: >12000 psi
  5. Tensile strength: > 8000 psi
  6. Aggregate should be placed within minutes of resin application
  7. Application temperature (ambient): 20 – 105 (with accelerator for low temperatures)
  8. Traffic reopening: 1 hr after application (depending on ambient temperature)
  9. Flash Point >50 °F

Very Low Viscosity Epoxy

  1. Viscosity: 100 cPs
  2. 100% solids
  3. Elongation: 10%
  4. Compressive strength: 8000 – 12000 psi
  5. Tensile strength: > 7000 psi
  6. Aggregate should be placed within 20 – 30 minutes of the resin application
  7. Application temperature (ambient): 40 – 90
  8. Traffic reopening: 6 hrs after application (depending on ambient temperature)
  9. Flash Point >200 °F

Ultra-Low Viscosity Epoxy

  1. Viscosity: 40 cPs
  2. 75% solids
  3. Elongation: 50%
  4. Tensile strength: 2500 psi
  5. Aggregate should be placed within 15 minutes of resin application
  6. Application temperature (ambient): > 50
  7. Traffic reopening: 4 hrs. after application (depending on ambient temperature)
  8. Flash Point:  > 100

Polyurethane / Polyurethane- hybrid

  1. Viscosity: 12-16 cPs
  2. Elongation: < 10%
  3. Compressive strength: 3000 psi
  4. Tensile strength: 4500 psi
  5. Aggregate should be placed immediately after resin application
  6. Traffic reopening: 10 – 90 minutes after application (depending on ambient temperature)
  7. Application temperature (ambient):  20 – 100
  8. Flash Point : >200°F

There a number of publications and research reports about healer-sealers. Some of them include a comparison with silane sealers.  A few links are reported below.

From Minnesota DOT:


From Oregon DOT:


From Colorado DOT:


From Kansas DOT: