Significance of Indian Bridge Management System

Bridge Management System

This article deals with the history of the Bridge Management System (BMS) and the significance of the Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS). It starts with the birth of BMS in the USA and how India is attempting to make it happen since 2015. Our Hon. Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari as Minister of Road, Transport and Highways (MORTH) in 2015 decided to implement IBMS and he actively supported the project. History will treat, his decision to implement IBMS, to have revolutionized the whole process of Bridge management in India.  The article also highlights the major changes that have occurred in the domain of bridge inspection and management post-implementation of IBMS; thereby indicating the significance of IBMS


In 1967, a bridge connecting Point Pleasant in West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio called the Silver Bridge collapsed resulting in the death of over 46 people.

Bridge Collapse

This triggered the US government to mandate the establishment of the National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS). It was legislation that resulted in NBIS which maintains specifications for the inspection and inventory of the bridges on the public road. Annual records collected vide NBIS is maintained by the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database. The federal authorities use the information on NBI (condition and appraisal rating) to decide the priority for allocation of funds for bridge reconstruction/repair/rehabilitation. Funding is given to the Highway Bridge Repair and Replacement Program (HBRRP) which in turn allocates the same to specific projects. To be able to allocate funds in a rational and technically sound manner, HBRRP funded the research which resulted in a Bridge Management System. Earlier versions of BMS were aimed to provide a decision-making tool for the disbursement of funds for bridge replacement. Limited financial funding resulted in the inclusion of repair and rehabilitation (R&R) activities to be taken to prolong the service life of the bridge. The R&R activities resulted in the need to understand more about the safety post R&R activities. Predictive tools to define the risk involved were incorporated. Today BMS incorporates all these tools in one program. BMS in USA is a very comprehensive system consisting of inventory data, Periodic inspection data accumulated over 35 years, various test results and data related to changes in any parameter that has occurred due to any repair/ rehabilitation intervention over the period, based on all this data, the BMS program can predict the possible failure mechanism and the period to which the bridge is safe, BMS evaluates the risk of not undertaking repair activity on the bridge and the cost increment that can result because of no-action scenario. Each of the improvements in BMS is the result of an identified need for that improvement arising out of a prolonged analysis of data accumulated over the years of using BMS. Even after 35 to 40 years, the system is said to be still a work in progress as newer technologies, recent advancements in various aspects of Bridge inspection, design, analysis, etc are being incorporated into the BMS in use in most of the states of USA. In the USA two major software programs (PONTIS and BRIDGEIT) are being used by various state authorities. Bridge Management Systems were born and matured due to legislative mandate and requirements.


Till June 2015, no formal Bridge Management system was incorporated in India. IDDC Engineers was said to have been researching this topic for over 10 years and in 2014, a round table was held in Mumbai with the support of all technical institutes and bodies related to bridge construction and maintenance to discuss the research done so far and to suggest a way forward to ensure implementation of BMS in India. A unanimous resolution was passed in which the Minister for Road, Transport and Highways was urged to incorporate the system. Within MORTH, two previous serious efforts to conduct total inspections of all bridges on National highways was done. Again, an effort to initiate a similar exercise was underway since 2014. The Round Table resolution reached the Ministry in July mid and it was accepted. An effort was initiated to integrate the exercise of inspection of all bridges on National Highway with the establishment of BMS on National Highways in India. The proposed BMS was to be digital in a manner that the data collected at the site for inventory was to be digitized and other data was to be collected in documents that were then cataloged and saved under each bridge. This system was to be developed as outlined by Indian Road Congress (IRC) in IRC SP 35 published in 1985. Since a new system was to be developed, the advantage of the knowledge available the world over in BMS was put to use for development. IRC SP 35 outlined the data fields for which data was to be collected under inventory but not much details were defined for inspection and testing of bridges. Other guidelines by IRC mandated the frequency of bridge inspection and its procedure.

Unlike the USA and in many other countries, India does not have legislation that mandated the evolution of BMS. In India, we undertook a three-year project starting 2015, with no guarantee that the developed BMS will be used once the project is complete. Presently the project is completed and no further utilization of BMS data is envisaged till the date of writing. This negates the efforts that underwent and when it is reinitialized, more efforts will go in unclogging the server and application.


Before IBMS was initiated in 2015, BMS was implemented by data collected on the field being input into the BMS software manually at the BMS center. When IBMS was initialized in 2015, the whole process of data collection for inventory was digitized and online submission of collected data was probably attempted for the first time in the world. IBMS digitized BMS in the world and then soon many other systems also went digital.

IBMS is the largest database with data for over 172,000 culverts and bridges being stored. This helped BMS foray into BIGDATA. The database has enabled MORTH to define the correct number of bridges, it’s age, it’s material of construction, it’s geometrical characteristics. Data also comprises of spatial information in the form of latitude and longitude. The inventory data being digital has enabled data analysis and data mining to define the statistical demography of the bridges concerning its age since constructed, it’s material of construction, it’s design system, the crossing features and most importantly the structural status of all bridges as defined in the last inspection. 

Inauguration of IBMS

Within one year of start, IBMS identified over 147 bridges that were in critical condition. MORTH analysed the information to reach a conclusion which of the bridge is to be taken for reconstruct (some very old bridges), repair and rehabilitate others. Since then a lot of attention is being paid on the structural health of bridges. The collapse of bridges started hogging limelight (Savitri Bridge in Maharashtra, few bridges in Bihar, West Bengal, Pedestrian overbridge in Mumbai) post-IBMS and accountability were established for the safety and structural adequacy of bridges in India not only on National Highways but bridges in general. IBMS may not have achieved its technical objective of bringing efficiency in the management of bridges, but it has successfully brought into focus the aspect of safety on bridges resulting in accountability towards the safekeeping of bridge assets in India.

During the period from 2015 to 2019, Team IBMS has actively participated in the various national and international conferences, published over 20 technical papers on the said topic and the work that was being done within IBMS. Notable contribution in the international scenario was the participation of IBMS as a Nodal point from India in the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Action group on Bridge inspection and management. (COST TU 1406) COST Action is a network dedicated to scientific collaboration and complementing research in Europe with other countries around the world acting as Observers. Team IBMS also contributed to an international conference on Bridge Management conducted in Melbourne by the International Association for Bridge Maintenance and Safety (IABMAS 2018)

Indian Road Congress (IRC) had welcomed presentations in three consecutive years since 2016 on IBMS at its annual meet. Based on the highlighted point that guidelines need to be revamped, IRC has taken a step to revisit all codes, special publications and guidelines post IBMS with the intent to streamline how BMS will be implemented in India. IRC SP 35, IRC SP 40 being the major publications that are being discussed by the B8 committee and both the documents will be soon available. One major modification is the definition of primary causes of distress (adapted from EN1504) and correlating the testing procedures and repair principles to the cause of distress. This can majorly affect the flow of activity within BMS. Now since the guideline is available, the bridge inspector can reach a prognosis on the probable cause of distress and use testing to confirm or reject his prognosis. Guidelines now define over 28 Non-Destructive tests that can be adopted to confirm the cause. Having confirmed the cause, the BMS can now also define the principles of repair that can be adopted for its rectification. This will enable the engineer taking the responsibility of the bridge to address the problem under a properly defined manner supported by IRC guidelines. 

Many state governments are taking an active look at having their own BMS to maintain the bridges on State highways and major district roads. Municipal Corporation of Mumbai floated a tender for the development of BMS for the city bridges. This will result in a spate of activity and the need to regulate the way bridges get inspected and reported since this report forms the basis of all future actions that will get initiated. The need to have trained and accredited manpower now becomes more important


Our Hon. Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari as Minister of Road, Transport and Highways in 2015 decided to implement IBMS and he actively supported the project. History will treat, the decision to implement IBMS, to have revolutionized the whole process of Bridge management in India. Even without any legislation in place, much was achieved and can be a very significant step in the correct direction to bring safety on Indian roads.

The upcoming series of articles will highlight the lessons learned from IBMS, changes that have happened and the way forward to implement successfully the UBMS. This series will take the readers through the various details of IBMS being implemented in India by MORTH. We will highlight the present status of development, the result of the ongoing research migrating the IBMS to a Universal BMS (UBMS), the importance of testing and definition of cause matrix, how both testing and cause matric result in an integrated approach. The implication of three essential aspects of BMS i.e. financial constraints, absence of institutional framework and trained manpower is highlighted. How modern technologies and Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) are shaping the BMS, finally culminating in the scenario of futuristic BMS.