Audit critiques DOTD bridge inspection program

Photo provided by staff.
Monday, April 7, 2014 - 7:52pm

A report by the legislative state auditor's office found the DOTD's bridge inspection program needs some improvements.

Auditors said, "The purpose of this audit was to determine whether the Louisiana Department of
Transportation and Development's (DOTD) inspection process for bridges (Bridge Inspection
Program) was conducted in accordance with federal requirements during fiscal year 2013."

What they found was the DOTD "was compliant with nine (39%) and either substantially
compliant or conditionally compliant with 14 (61%) of the 23 FHWA metrics for bridge
inspections." The DOTD was not found not compliant on any areas.

Auditors found the DOTD need to improve area's of it's bridge inspection program. Those areas include: inspection frequency, and properly documenting those inspections.

"Our bridge inspection program is in good shape. I think the audit really does show that no program is perfect, and we are always striving to improve," David Miller, DOTD bridge maintenance engineer, said.

DOTD officials said they've already talked with the Federal Highway Administration and came up with strategies to fix those problems.

"There is 23 metrics we are reviewed on, so each one that is not in the compliant mode has some sort of plan of corrective action," Miller said.

News of the report had some drivers concerned.

"People drive on bridges everyday," Mary Martin France, driver, said. "That's a little concerning for me. I think it should be a priority for them to check the roads and bridges."

"I think it needs to be fixed. We have a lot of traffic on the bridges. I feel the bridges need to be safe for families to get back and fourth," Curtis Babineaux, driver, said.

The audit also revealed 1,806 out of the 12,905 bridges in the state (14 percent of bridges ) are structurally deficient.

DOTD officials said that doesn't mean the bridge is necessarily dangerous. Miller says say it's kind of like a car.

"Like you drive a car off the lot and it's in pretty good shape," Miller said. "Five years later it's got some dings on the door. The bumper may be bumped in a little bit, and there may be some rust. It's still safe to drive, but it's not in that pristine condition."

DOTD officials say they're taking steps to help improve the bridge inspection program including adding extra workers to inspection teams.

Miller stated, "I'll tell you we have a good group of inspectors. If a bridge is unsafe it will be shut down. "

Drivers say it's a matter of trust.

"It makes me nervous every time I get on a bridge," Babineaux, said. "But, all I can do is have trust in the government that the bridges are safe and hop on it and roll."

To read the full legislative auditors report click here.



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