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Bridge Inspection, Posting, and Responsibility
The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) inspects all Bridges and Minor Spans on public ways every two years in accordance with the National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS) and MaineDOT’s Bridge Management Coding Guides. The collected data (for bridges only) is reported annually to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and is used for determining safe load capacities and candidates for MaineDOT’s bridge capital and maintenance work.
The MaineDOT can also provide standard coded data sheets for Structure Inventory and Appraisal (SI&A) for all structures in your municipality. The data for each structure will fill a page with the numerous data items. In addition to the SI&A report, interpretation pages for most of the codes would be included to assist the municipality in understanding the significance of the more detailed data.
Contact the Bridge Maintenance Division in Augusta (624-3580) for assistance with this data.
There are two common types of bridge posting: vertical clearance and weight. Both postings require signs on, or at the bridge, and advanced warning signs.
When the clearance over a roadway is less than 14’6", State Law (Title 29-A, Section 2380) requires vertical clearance signs be installed. These signs are usually required for overpasses and for trusses with overhead obstructions. The law requires that the responsibility for installing and maintaining signs on roadways that have restrictions be placed on the custodian of that roadway. Although MaineDOT generally installs clearance signs on our bridges over town ways such as the Interstate, the municipality is still responsible according to this law. The most frequently unsigned or partially signed structures are those owned by the railroad over town ways. Note that installing signs on someone else’s bridge requires permission. Measurements should be taken periodically, to ensure that the stated height is still provided.
Title 29-A, Section 2387 provides the authorization for weight posting of bridges that cannot support legally loaded vehicles. Weight posting must be based on the recommendations of MaineDOT or a registered Professional Engineer. Temporary weight restrictions or closure by the municipality when a structural problem occurs (i.e., a failed or weakened component) is allowed under this law until repairs or re-evaluation by a Professional Engineer can occur.
Besides protecting public safety and the public’s investment in bridge structures, posting helps protect against liability. Should an accident occur because of a deficiency in a bridge, Maine Law may allow damage recoveries of up to $400,000 for gross negligence. In addition to any potential liability, the FHWA may withhold Federal Highway Funds for all projects in any municipality that does not have the bridges weight properly posted.
Signing of bridges for weight or height limitations should be done in accordance with the latest version of the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), Section 6F.10 of the 2009 Edition. Note that a sign must be placed in advance of the bridge to allow turning around or avoiding the bridge by using an alternate route.
Responsibility for Posting or Closure
This page last updated on 8/22/11
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