Alexander Svirsky (private citizen) — Does the best job of making the data available. He developed a searchable database of bridge information by road and state. Unfortunately, the site tends to crash if there is widespread interest; it was down for four days after the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota.
Currently, the American public depends on a private citizen to receive public information on bridge safety ratings in their neighborhood. This should not be the case. Providing this data is the job of the U.S. Government, and the Federal Highway Administration should do it better. The author of this blog entry on Moving Past Push Pins makes the point that it requires Herculean effort just for a simple application of NBI data.
The FHA ought to make accessible to Americans the data we have already purchased with our tax dollars. This will empower everyday citizens and more journalists to analyze the data, inform themselves, and find insights the FHA or State officials may not have seen. Otherwise, all we can do is trust the Secretary of Transportation, who, two days after the I-35W bridge collapse, reassured America, "I do believe that America's highways and bridges are safe."
What the FHA should do is provide: (1) an easy-to-use NBI search tool that is available during periods of high online traffic and (2) database files already in Excel and/or other database application formats.
This article has been emailed to Raymond McCormick, Ann Shemaka, and Steve Ernst of FHA's NBI Steering Committee. Their comments have been invited.
I agree, the NBI data files are hard to work with. However, I recently spent some time with that data and have created a map that contains it all. Its a google based interactive map. Give it a try usbridgemap.com