Changes Made After Bridge Safety Audit

Two Texas agencies are working to improve their communication on bridge safety after an audit earlier this year said the state was taking too long to update critical load restrictions on bridges across the state.

The report by the state auditor's office said while TXDOT inspected bridges in a timely manner, and in compliance with federal and state laws, they failed to update load restriction signs on many bridges.

NBCDFW first reported the audit's findings in February.

Federal law said load restrictions should be posted on state-owned bridges within 90 days of a bridge inspection, the auditor's office said.

"Based on a review of 41 postings, the department took an average of 319 days to post load restrictions on state-owned bridges, exceeding the federal time limit by an average of 229 days," the audit stated.

Bridges in the DFW metroplex went 117 days on average from 2007 to 2009 without the proper signage after inspections, according to data obtained using the Texas Open Records Act.

The worst was in Kaufman County, where TXDOT left two bridges for 320 days after they were inspected without the correct load restriction signs. Those bridges were the US 175 bridge over Kings Creek just two miles northwest of SH 34, and the FM 148 bridge over Big Brushy Creek, almost 4 miles southwest of I-20.

Three bridges in Parker County -- FM 113 over N Rippy Branch, FM 52 over Rock Creek and US 80 over Town Creek -- went 37, 64 and 59 days, respectively.

TXDOT disagreesd with the auditors' findings. Its interpretation of the law required the signs be posted within 90 days of approval of the posting by the Department -- not 90 days after the actual inspection. 

However, TXDOT and the Department of Public Safety announced Wednesday- 8 months after the audit- they are working more closely to ensure that bridges in Texas are safe. 

The press release, issued by TXDOT, said communications between the two agencies will improve as TxDOT recently implemented a procedure to immediately notify DPS whenever there is a change to a bridge's maximum weight allowance. 

Once bridge load posting signs have been installed or removed, immediate notification is electronically sent from TxDOT to DPS to let them know of the change. 

"This new communication tool is another effort launched to improve the safety of Texas bridges," TxDOT Deputy Executive Director Steve Simmons said in a prepared statement. "Partnering in this effort fortifies the focus on safety by both agencies."

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