The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has so far constructed small bridges and other relevant structures having a combined length of 280 kilometres across the country, but it hardly carries out necessary repair and maintenance of the same.
The department does not have information about the existing state of these structures. Nor it has tried ever to gather the same, sources said.
The RHD has developed software to feed necessary data on bridges, culverts and bailey bridges three years ago. The data stored in the software was quite old and those have never been updated, they added.
The RHD constructs bridges having a length of less than 1.5 km. But most of these bridges are 100-500 metres long. The software was developed to assess the need of repair and maintenance work on these small bridges, culverts and bailey bridges.
According to the data, RHD has now a total of 3,548 bridges having a length of 178.49 km. Besides, 14,814 culverts and 856 bailey bridges were also built to ensure uninterrupted road communication in the country.
"The data on the total number of bridges, culverts and bailey bridges are at least 15 years old," said an official preferring not to be named.
The RHD has no idea of the existing conditions of these bridges, he added.
Additional Chief Engineer of Bridge Management Wing Shishir Kanti Rauth said the total number of bridges and related infrastructures might not be changed significantly but RHD has been trying to know the state of these infrastructures.
He, however, said the wing has taken a move to carry out survey on the conditions of bridges under all zones by the third party as there are many technical aspects to assess the conditions.
"Survey has many parameters to assess for example, expansion joints, railing condition, bearing, girders and scouring under river water. So, one cannot do a survey on more than 10 bridges in a day as doing the survey on one bridge properly would take at least one hour," he told the FE over the phone.
As the RHD has to do a wide array of works, he said, survey of thousands of infrastructures in a dedicated way is not possible.
The RHD has invited an expression of interest to carry out a survey on bridges, culverts and bailey bridges in Rangpur and Cumilla zones as part of the move in the current fiscal year. But official sources said no firm having sufficient knowledge about bridge surveys has responded.
"Actually, bridge survey needs special kinds of machines and knowledge. Firms having both are not there," Mr Shishir said, adding that another EoI will be called soon giving much details about the works.
Once the RHD had complained about not receiving enough budgetary allocation for repair and maintenance of the national highways and roads, but it has been receiving an increased budget for the same work since 2013.
Officials said budgetary allocation for road maintenance cannot be spent on the maintenance and repair work of small bridges.