Postprint version. Published in Journal of Bridge Engineering, Volume 8, Issue 6, November 1, 2003, pages 374-382.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Allen Estes was affiliated with the United States Military Academy - West Point, NY. Currently, August 2008, he is Head and Professor of Architectural Engineering at California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo.
The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)1084-0702(2003)8:6(374).
Bridge management systems have become increasingly sophisticated over the past decade and provide valuable information about the structural condition of all bridges in the national database. At the same time, reliability methods have gained increasing prominence and are used to forecast life-cycle performance over many decades of structural life. Such reliability analyses need to be updated based on the results of inspections. Specifically targeted nondestructive evaluations are the preferred solution, but are not always available for every bridge. This paper examines how the visual inspection data provided from bridge management systems already in place can be used to update the reliability of a bridge. The limitations and necessary modifications to current practice are discussed. The superstructure of a Colorado highway bridge deteriorating due to corrosion is used as an example.