The Bridge Bureau provides structural engineering expertise for MDT’s operations. Its primary focus consists of bridges: about 5,000 bridges in Montana, of which MDT has responsibility to maintain around 3,000. The Bureau provides technical support in all structural arenas, including culverts and structures that support highway signs and lights.
The Bureau offers technical expertise through a number of avenues:
Design - The Bridge Bureau performs structural design of projects to build new bridges or to repair and upgrade existing bridges. It also provides oversight of consultant engineering firms working for MDT. It works in liaison with the rest of MDT to develop these projects and prepare them for letting to contractors.
Construction - The Bureau provides technical support during project construction. It also checks the fabrication (shop) drawings that detail how the components of bridges go together.
Maintenance - The Bureau oversees and/or performs critical maintenance on bridges for which it has maintenance responsibility. It offers guidance to the MDT district offices for routine maintenance. It does not maintain bridges owned by the counties or other agencies, but does provide technical assistance to those agencies if asked.
Condition Inspection - The Bridge Bureau oversees a program of regularly scheduled inspections for all publicly owned bridges in Montana. It trains inspectors and guides them in their work. The inspections help insure public safety and facilitate prioritization of bridge repair and replacement.
Operations - The Bridge Bureau determines whether overweight trucks can use the bridges for which MDT bears responsibility safely. Overweight trucks are permitted when the load can’t be made smaller and analysis shows that the load can safely cross the bridge.