August 2, 2007
Every two years, VDOT employees physically head out to every bridge across the state to visually inspect the supporting members, joints, piers and abutments.
If they see any area of deterioration, inspectors do a more invasive inspection with radiographic testing (which is like an x-ray) and also can apply a liquid to cracks to see how deep they are.
VDOT Spokesperson Lou Hatter says most damage is shown on the surface and moves inward, so it can be caught by the naked eye.
If a bridge has had previous problems or a posted weight limit, it is inspected more often. For instance, the Advance Mills Bridge in Albemarle County was inspected every six months.
Hatter says bridges that tend to shake when traveled over, such as the Free Bridge in Albemarle County, are no cause for concern.
"Bridges are built with some give in them," explained Hatter. "If you think about it, from temperatures extremes of 95 in July and August on to below-freezing in the winter time, that causes metal to shrink and expand and there has to be some give in the bridge to allow that to happen."
Hatter says VDOT has a very aggressive inspections team that exceeds the federal requirements.