Short‐line railroad management system for bridge prioritization

Robert C. Guyer (NTM Engineering, Inc, Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, USA)
Jeffrey A. Laman (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)

Built Environment Project and Asset Management

ISSN: 2044-124X

Publication date: 6 July 2012



Limited funding to maintain and preserve short‐line railroad (SLRR) bridge infrastructure requires that important priority decisions be made on an annual basis. The compartmentalized, dispersed, and diverse nature of many SLRR owners and operators is such that there is a need for a coordinated and centralized effort to evaluate the state‐wide system as a whole, to ensure the most effective overall resource allocation and also identify assets that either outperform predictions or consume disproportionate levels of resources for maintenance and operation, allowing for review of design and construction practices. The purpose of this paper is to examine the state of the art for railroad bridge population management and resource allocation decisions and to develop a state‐wide SLRR bridge prioritization methodology, to be used as a tool by a state agency to assist in allocating limited public funding for bridge maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement activities.


A literature review examining the state of the art of railroad bridge population management and resource allocation decisions was conducted, which provided the foundation for the development of a bridge prioritization algorithm. A state‐wide survey was conducted to develop a bridge database. A detailed evaluation of a statistically significant sample of bridges was conducted, to determine the structural and maintenance needs and preservation status of sub‐populations. The research team developed methodologies, applicable to the entire population, to develop a ranking of bridge preservation candidates.


A risk‐based prioritization algorithm is proposed to assign a relative risk score to each bridge in the population. The algorithm provides a management tool for making more effective maintenance and preservation decisions. Additionally, the bridge database allows managers to examine sub‐populations according to structural parameters to evaluate performance.


The revisable, modular framework of the prioritization algorithm provides a simple, effective and versatile tool for asset management and evaluation. The present proposal of this new prioritization methodology for SLRR bridges is a valuable tool for agencies faced with making rational decisions with limited information. Such a methodology does not currently exist in the literature and is of significant interest to short‐line owners/operators and state transportation agencies.



Guyer, R.C. and Laman, J.A. (2012), "Short‐line railroad management system for bridge prioritization", Built Environment Project and Asset Management, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 25-40.

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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