Credit: Photo: Ken Banaszak, Ohio DOT

Crews replace a failed culvert along Interstate 480 in Cuyahoga County during the Christmas season of 2001. Due to efforts of the Ohio DOT and Great Lakes Construction Co., the work was completed in about 10 days.

As many DOTs are discovering, the lifespan of any given culvert is not as definite as a textbook may indicate. However, the Ohio DOT (ODOT) has formulated a systematic approach to inventory, inspect, and rate culverts to prevent emergency situations from arising.

ODOT District 12 is responsible for Cuyahoga, Lake, and Geauga counties. Cuyahoga County is the home of the city of Cleveland and 1520 lane-miles of interstate. One of the busiest interstates is Interstate 480, which runs through the center of the county and carries an average daily traffic volume of 170,000 vehicles.

On a Friday in December 2001, crews identified a culvert failure under I-480 pavement just days before Christmas. By Friday evening, the public had been alerted to the situation, traffic had been diverted to alternate routes, and I-480 was reduced from four to two lanes in the westbound direction.

Great Lakes Construction Co., Hinkley, Ohio, was awarded an emergency contract and in-house district engineers created plans to place a new culvert adjacent to the failing structure. Crews worked around the clock and were able to reopen the roadway in about 10 days, just in time for the Christmas holiday.

As a result of this failure, as well as a statewide ODOT initiative to inventory and inspect culverts, District 12 created a cross-disciplinary, problem-solving process (PSP) team to confront the problem head-on and develop an approach that would prevent this type of emergency from occurring on other District 12 highways.

This PSP team, the Culvert Inspection Team, has devised and implemented a comprehensive plan that uses existing district construction field engineers and technicians to inventory and systematically inspect all culverts. Each culvert is identified with a unique identification number and field-located using a global positioning system. Depending upon their condition, culverts are evaluated, prioritized, and scheduled for maintenance, repair, or replacement as needed.

Ron Valdman, construction engineer and Culvert Inspection Team co-chair, said, “The combined efforts of our construction engineers, planning and production departments, and assistance from our roadway services departments will ensure District 12 can foresee any problems well in advance and prevent unnecessary disruptions to traffic in the future.”

Michelle Proctor is public information officer with ODOT