Today marks the one-year anniversary of the effective date of the MAP-21 highway bill which replaced the expired SAFETEA-LU legislation. One of the changes affecting the use of ECO-SPAN® and similar three-sided structures is expanded autonomy for local agencies on federal aid projects with regard to culvert material selection.
Whereas the expired law mandated inclusion of multiple material types, Section 1525 of the new law allows states to choose the best material for a site when federal aid is received.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) addresses Section 1525 in guidance documents on its website: https://international.fhwa.dot.gov/construction/cqit/culvert.cfm.
On January 28, 2013, the Final Rule implementing the requirements of Section 1525 was published in the Federal Register; The Final Rule added Paragraph (f) to 23 CFR 635.411 as follows:
(f) State transportation departments (State DOTs) shall have the autonomy to determine culvert and storm sewer material types to be included in the construction of a project on a Federal-aid highway.
The Final Rule was effective February 27, 2013, and is available at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-01-28/pdf/2013-01583.pdf.
The Federal Register adds: “…with respect to design standards, the specified type would have to conform to engineering design standards such as structural load, hydraulic capacity, corrosion resistance, etc., and would have to fit into the natural and constructed environment. These culvert design standards are encompassed in the various standards found in 23 CFR part 625.”
As with the previous law, federal projects must continue to comply with all applicable federal requirements including Buy America, culvert design standards in 23CFR Part 625, and the restriction against the use of patented and proprietary products.
This change allows specifiers to consider site conditions which may affect the longevity of some materials, local availability and pricing, and even personal experience when selecting a culvert material.