The Vermont Agency of Transportation will be posting new signs with weight limits for emergency vehicles on 39 bridges throughout the State this month. Under federal law, the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), and in response to a trend that trucks continue to get larger, with some exceeding the weight of trucks that were in use when many bridges were designed, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is requiring States to expand their load ratings to include emergency vehicles and post if required. Load ratings determine the effect that these heavier and larger trucks have on a bridge, the bridge’s capacity to safely handle the load, and whether a posting is needed.
Vermont is among many states working to meet this posting requirement. The goal is to ensure that emergency responders are aware of the potential safety concern as it relates to emergency vehicles. By January 30, 2022, all applicable bridges in the State highway system must have weight limits posted. By the end of 2022, load rating for all remaining bridges in Vermont must be completed and posted, if necessary, by January 30, 2023.
With the exception of one State bridge sign that will show only a gross weight to match existing posting, all signs on State bridges will show a maximum single axle, maximum tandem, and maximum gross weight in tons that should, based on calculation and being the only vehicle straddling centerline, cross the bridge:
Vermont statue allows exemptions for construction, maintenance, and emergency response vehicles (https://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/23/013/01399). While fire apparatus and emergency response vehicles may choose to cross a bridge, the posting will identify the risk.
Click here to view a list of all bridges and their weight limits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is VTrans posting these weight limits now?
VTrans must come into compliance with guidance from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in pursuant with the federal FAST Act of 2015. The goal is safety. Some bridges in the State highway system were designed at a time when trucks were smaller and lighter. Now, with emergency vehicles larger and heavier than in the past, the weight-bearing capacity of some bridges was not designed to accommodate these vehicles.
Will these new bridge weight limit postings affect emergency services response times?
Each emergency response agency or service provider will decide whether to alter routes depending on the weights of its vehicles and posted weight limits of bridges in its service area. With only 39 bridges throughout the entire state affected by the new postings, and with many emergency vehicles within the posted weight limits, there is not an anticipated change in response times to emergencies. For more information about a particular geographical area, the local fire department is the best resource to learn more.
How does the State maintain bridges and decide when to replace them?
The Agency of Transportation’s Mission and Vision include statements to provide a safe, efficient, and reliable transportation system. While these goals are at the core of the Bridge Preservation Program, the reality is that bridges deteriorate over time, and load restriction may result to ensure public safety. The program’s goal is to review new design and maintain bridges to provide 100 years of service before replacement is required. The Bridge Preservation Program works closely with Asset Management’s Bridge Inspection Unit, the Operations and Safety Bureau, and the District Maintenance and Fleet Division to identify and develop cost effective and timely bridge preservation measures using proven and innovative techniques. Treatment for cyclical activities such as bridge washing, cleaning, and concrete waterproofing are combined with structural condition-based repairs to arrest continuing element deterioration and provide protection for underlying structural components.