Bridge Inspections Season in Full Swing

Nebraska's Bridge Inspection Season Underway

Bridges serve as a way to school, work, and back home for millions of Americans each day. In Nebraska alone, there are approximately 16,000 bridges. Take a count of how many bridges you cross on your commute. Chances are you're likely driving over some of them without even noticing. That's because bridges are of everyday use and you probably won't notice anything about them until something comes between your point A and point B or even worse, your usual connection of point A and point B is gone.

Bridge failures can cause severe injury and even death. It can disrupt traffic and cause delays in the delivery of goods and services. Luckily, Schemmer is here to help make sure accidents like that are prevented.

This picture shows the aftermath of the Silver Bridge collapse in 1967. Credit: WVDOT

History of Bridge Inspections

Bridge inspections started in 1967 following the collapse of the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River between West Virginia and Ohio. 46 people were killed when the bridge collapsed during rush hour traffic. Since then, the Federal Government mandates that bridges are inspected every two years to ensure their structural safety.

The federally mandated bridge inspections are performed by certified bridge inspectors in conformance with the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) guidance and standards. Following those inspections, roughly two percent of these bridges are randomly selected to receive an independent Quality Assurance (QA) review to further ensure the safety of the bridge.  Schemmer is currently providing that QA for the State of Nebraska.

“The idea is to catch things before they become a problem and get them fixed so that the majority of the public will never know there was a problem in the first place,” said Schemmer Bridge Engineer Ian Plummer.

Left: Ian Plummer, Right: Gavin Acker

Bridge Inspections in Nebraska

Ian Plummer and CADD Technician Gavin Acker started inspections in June and will continue into October. Schemmer averages about 250 bridge inspections across Nebraska each year.

“We’re looking for any deficiencies that come from any cracking in the concrete, corrosion or rusting on steel to any collision damage like cars running into it. If it’s over a waterway, we’re looking for ice or trees that may have come down and caused damage to the bridge,” said Plummer.

Challenges and Safety Concerns

Most of Nebraska's State highway bridges are in good structural order.  The rural Farm-to-Market bridges, however, have a wide range of structural conditions sometimes requiring an immediate shutdown following an inspection.  Ian knows this process all too well with a recent bridge closure he ordered.

“There was a steel member on it that was cracked about 75% of the way through. If it got 100% through it probably could’ve collapsed. So we found that and immediately called the county and told them that this needed to be closed until it could be fixed,” he explained.

Ian recognizes the downside of finding a bridge that is unsafe and knows it can be an inconvenience but says the reward far outweighs the risk of keeping it open.

“Throughout the country, probably 100 bridges can be shut down in a day, and people will only notice how it affects their route, but we just hope it affects their life in a positive way,” he said.

Ian and Gavin are currently out four days a week making sure Nebraska bridges are safe for the public. They start early in the morning and often spend hours on the road driving from one location to the next. It’s a job that Ian says makes him feel, “Exhausted! No, it’s good. It’s good. A lot of these times when you’re able to do it, it’s in the summer in Nebraska so it’s hot and takes a lot out of you, but in the end, it’s for the good of the public. So I’m glad that I’m doing it and I enjoy doing it. I’m glad I can help even if no one knows I’m doing it.”


Schemmer is a full-service architecture, engineering, and construction field services consultant providing responsible solutions for complex design and construction-related challenges.

Founded in 1959, we are grounded in our past but remain fully committed to the future. Located in five States and nine offices throughout the Midwest, Schemmer is providing services to clients from coast-to-coast and border-to-border across the United States.

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