FHWA Proposing National Tunnel Inspections

September 28, 2010

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is soliciting comments on the proposed creation of national tunnel inspection standards.

FHWA’s development of tunnel inspection standards comes in response to recommendations
from the National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general. Those recommendations were issued after investigating the fatal July 2006 collapse of a ceiling panel in the Interstate 90 tunnel in Boston.

Although there is no national inventory, FHWA estimates that there are more than 300 highway tunnels in the United States. Tunnel owners are currently not mandated to routinely inspect tunnels and inspection methods vary.

According to the Federal Register, the proposal issued by FHWA “would set minimum tunnel inspection standards that apply to all federal-aid highway tunnels on public roads. The FHWA anticipates that [the standards] could be modeled after the existing National Bridge Inspection Standards.”

The tunnel standards “likely would include requirements for inspection procedures for structural, mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and ventilation systems, and other major elements specific to tunnels such as tunnel finishes; the qualification and training of inspectors; and a National Tunnel Inventory.”

The FHWA notice seeks public comment in 14 areas. All comments are due by Feb. 17. The notice is available at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-27265.pdf