Bridge Management Background Report

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  Map with overview of the bridges under study Copyright: © ISAC

Overview Map:


Functioning and efficient infrastructures, especially in the area of highways, are the basis for our economic and trade system. Due to the bridge problems that have already been described many times, enormous investments, but of course also traffic effects (traffic jams, detour routes with increased pollutant and noise pollution, economic effects, etc.) are imminent here in order to overcome the rehabilitation backlog of the past. To this end, the existing procedure in the area of bridge maintenance must be rethought and optimized. Given the large number of upcoming measures, further measures urgently need to be implemented in addition to effective monitoring (especially in order to be able to plan in a more targeted manner in the future).

A large proportion of the bridges on Germany's highways date back to the years 1960 to 1980 and are therefore well over 40 years old and designed on the basis of inadequate traffic load models. In addition, Germany as a European transit country continues to experience a steady increase in traffic volume, especially in the area of heavy goods traffic. It is significant that 78% of all goods are transported by road (DESTATIS, 2021). Heavy goods traffic places a disproportionately high strain on the road infrastructure, especially on the bridge structures, which are already under heavy load. As a result, the load-bearing capacity reserves of the bridge structures are often exhausted. In order to protect the road infrastructure, transit bans for heavy goods traffic are often introduced for a short period of time, but without effective accompanying measures, their effectiveness is low. In some cases, bridges even have to be closed completely and thus taken out of traffic.

To avoid such scenarios, the current bridge management system needs to be rethought. Effective monitoring or regular inspection is an important step here, but it can only be the first step. In addition to the condition assessment of the structures based on an external visual inspection, criteria must be specified for prioritizing measures or extending the service life. First and foremost, the necessary planning time must be gained until the renewal measures are carried out, in particular to prevent full road closures. But planning processes must also be shortened. Not nearly all bridges in need of rehabilitation can be repaired promptly and simultaneously. There is a lack of time for the planning and approval of these measures, but also a lack of personnel both in administration and at the construction companies carrying out the work.

Within the scope of the project, a map of bridges that will have to be renewed or rehabilitated in the next few years has been developed, as well as possible solutions to deal with these challenges.