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Policy Statement 504 - Rehabilitation of Historic Bridges

 
Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on January 23, 2018
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018

Policy      

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the development and implementation of Historic Bridge Management Plans for each state. The goals of these Historic Bridge Management Plans are to develop historic bridge inventories, identify bridges where rehabilitation/preservation are appropriate and feasible, and develop specific preservation plans for those bridges. ASCE also supports the maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation of historic bridges, preferably, for continued vehicular use, or when that is not possible, for use by some active transportation means such as a pedestrian or bicycle bridge. 

Issue 

Historic bridges are defined as bridges that are listed on, or eligible for listing on, the National Register of Historic Places. The structure is required to be at least 50 years old for National Register eligibility. Due to perceived functional obsolescence, lack of regular maintenance, and lack of any funding priority, historic bridges are a heritage at risk. 

Bridges are a visible icon of the civil engineer's art. Historic bridges are important links to our past, serve as safe and vital transportation routes in the present, and can continue to serve as important elements of our transportation systems in the future. Rehabilitation can maintain these important engineering works in service and can have significant cost savings compared to replacing the facilities altogether. By demonstrating interest in the rehabilitation and re-use of historic bridges, the civil engineering profession acknowledges the value of these structures as cultural resources and an awareness of the historic built environment.   

Rationale

Many historic bridges can still serve the nation's transportation needs, given appropriate repair, maintenance and flexibility in interpreting transportation standards as suggested by national transportation policy.

Vehicular use is the best preservation because it keeps the bridge in traffic maintenance, inspection, and funding programs. When it is not possible for a historic bridge to continue in vehicular use on primary routes, consideration must be given to relocating these bridges to routes receiving lighter volumes of traffic or changing their function to serve alternative means of transportation; such as hiking trails and bikeways. The United States is developing a comprehensive network of scenic highways and byways, and tandem to this is a network of hiking trails and bikeways. Maintaining and relocating historic bridges to these systems sustains the scale, character and feeling of these historic, recreational, and scenic corridors.

There is growing public interest in historic bridges, with citizens groups throughout the country working to save historic bridges. As civil engineers, we need to lead and support these efforts. Bridges are engineered resources and require skills and interest of engineers for preservation, without which there is little chance that the historic bridges of the United States can be preserved for future generations. Insufficient funding remains a pervasive problem for historic bridge preservation projects. Until historic bridge preservation becomes part of everyday transportation policy, receiving the support of transportation officials at all levels, and the continued support of citizen groups, historic bridges remain at risk.

ASCE Policy Statement 504   
First Approved in 2003 


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