Though there are some 600,000 bridges in the highway portfolio of bridges, all of which benefit from regular inspection and maintenance, there are another 100,000 in the freight rail industry. We do quite a few inspections in each sector; let’s take a look over on the freight rail side.
The standards for freight rail bridge inspections are rigorous, as befits structures that sometimes must handle loads measured in the hundreds of tons. The engineering is well-established and well-known, but the elements of water, weather, age, and the characteristics of materials are always at work upon the bridges.
The urgency of response is notable in freight rail, as any bridge shutdown due to replacement or repair not only costs money directly, but impacts the freight rail network. The trains need to move. This puts a premium on the robustness of the original design and construction, and upon the regularity of inspection. That robustness and regularity have long proved themselves, with many freight rail bridges entering their second century of productive life. A design life of over a century, a rarity elsewhere in infrastructure, is commonplace in freight rail.
The freight lines themselves are committed to superior system-wide maintenance in order to maintain high safety standards, maximize the efficiency of the network, and to prepare for the future, which is sur to include more freight volumes being moved.
It’s an industry that takes pride in doing a lot of things right; we’re proud to be part of the process. – lsm