What does it take to complete a bridge inspection?

FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – Bridge inspections are a vital part in ensuring that all of our bridges are up to code and don’t have any issues.

These inspections are done on each bridge every two years, but some of the them can go as long as four years before needing to be inspected.

“We are looking at every piece of steel on the bridge,” said Department of Highways District 9 Bridge Inspection Coordinator Ed Swepston. “They have to touch the steel, which is called a hands on inspection. This is the second day we’ve been out here and we will have one more day out here. So this bridge will take probably three days maybe three and a half days to get everything looked at.”

Aside from just looking at the steel structure, the inspectors also look at the barriers along the bridge for cracks and measure the gaps in the expansion joints to ensure they are within normal limits.

To look under the bridge they use a special bucket truck that allows the crew to be lowered over the bridge and then goes all the way underneath. They also rotate crews every inspection so there is always fresh eyes on the bridge.

“We have two crews which we can break up into three or four crews if we need it,” Swepston said. “So four years ago team A inspected this bridge and this year team B is inspecting the bridge. Two years from now A will be back on it. So it’s just a fresh set of eyes.”

If an issue is found with a particular bridge the information recorded during the inspection is turned over to engineers so they can figure out what repairs are needed.

These inspections are conducted with traffic on the bridge which makes the job extremely dangerous. So remember to slow down to the marked speed when entering a road work zone.

The amount of time it takes to do an inspection depends on the size of the bridge. Larger bridges like the New River Gorge Bridge, can take up to three weeks to inspect.

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