Mercer County Engineer's Office

Inspection Program

How did the inspection program begin? Prior to the 1960's, most bridges in the United States were not inspected. Then in 1967, the Silver bridge over the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, West Virginia collapsed, killing 46 people. This prompted congress to add a section to the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1968 that established national bridge inspection standards and developed a program to train bridge inspectors. However, this act only applied to bridges on the Federal Aid Highway System. Typically, our county bridges are located Off the federal aid system.

 The Surface Transportation Act of 1978 was signed by President Carter on November 6, 1978, and it expanded the inspection requirements. It required that all public bridges over 20 feet in length must be inspected and inventoried in accordance with the National bridge inspection standards, and the information submitted prior to December 31, 1980. It provided funds for inspection and also made funds available for repairs and rehabilitation.

 Mercer County was the first in the State to complete the initial inspection and inventory.

Our inspection program continues today. Federal law requires that all bridges on public roads be inspected at least once every two years. Due to the large number of bridges in Mercer County, we inspect half one year and the other half the following year. Our inspection information is gathered using data collectors and this information is uploaded to PennDOT's bridge database for reporting to the federal government. Approximately 900 items are inventoried, reviewed and catalogued at each inspection.

 All bridges in Pennsylvania are inspected using the same criteria, and numeric ratings are assigned to various parts of the structure. All inspectors, if they are not registered engineers, are required to attend inspection training to assure all inspection conditions are properly coded and recorded. These numeric codes are used to develop what is known as the structure's deficiency or sufficiency rating which gives an overall condition of the structure and how critical it is in relation to other structures