PONTIS is a comprehensive maintenance management and improvement optimization system for bridge networks. It was designed by Dr. Kamal Golabi and developed under his supervision at the request of the Federal Highway Administration, and with the collaboration of six states and two national agencies. The system has been adopted by AASHTO (Association of American State Highway Transportation Organization), is used in the majority of states, and is the main tool by which decisions on bridge replacements, expansions, maintenance, rehabilitation, and budget allocations for the bulk of the 565,000 United States bridges are carried out. This work was recognized in 1996 when it was named as a finalist in the Franz Edelman Prize Competition by The Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

Although PONTIS has been developed for United States bridge networks, the internal machinery of the system has been designed in such a way that would allow adoption of the system in other countries. As the original designer of PONTIS, Optima is ideally suited in developing a tailor-made system for any country.

The heart of the system is a set of optimization models which derive their information requirements from predictive, cost, and feasible action models. Engineering judgment and managerial considerations are also inputs to the model. The outputs are action plans for improvement (e.g., replacement, deck expansion), maintenance, rehabilitation, and repair (MR&R) actions and schedules, and budget requirements. An updating model provides a powerful tool to adapt the deterioration rates in bridges as new data becomes available over the years. Thus, while PONTIS starts by using engineering judgment and currently available data as the basis for its predictive model, it "learns" from new data and automatically adjusts its predictive equations over time.

PONTIS was designed with these goals in mind:

  • Maintaining the safety of the traveling public
  • Minimizing of disruptions, delays, and costs to users
  • Minimizing of total expected costs over the long run
  • Efficiently utilizing funding sources as well as engineering and maintenance personnel
  • Avoiding of costly repairs through appropriate preventive maintenance
  • Equitably allocating resources to various geographical areas and bridge activities
  • Correcting deficiencies within a reasonable time period

PONTIS has several features and capabilities. which accounts for its success. PONTIS is a versatile managerial and decision-making tool that:

  • Provides a systematic procedure for setting optimal repair and improvement priorities.
  • Addresses both improvements (e.g., expansions, height increases) and maintenance.
  • Provides the capability to consider the entire bridge network simultaneously in arriving at recommendations, while retaining the flexibility to address any subset of bridges.
  • Simulates future conditions for any budget scenario and shows backlog of work and future budget requirements under any scenario.
  • Coordinates maintenance planning decisions with those of future improvement.
  • Considers the differing repair needs of the major structural components for bridges, as well as the differing needs of the various types of bridges.
  • Allows for the updating of deterioration predictive probabilities as additional data becomes available over time.
  • Considers the effect of present actions on future conditions.
  • Weighs the benefits of preventive maintenance versus corrective actions.
  • Answers "what if" questions in terms of future conditions of the network.
  • Provides a basis for short-term and long-term budget planning and resource allocation.
  • Provides a systematic framework for the incorporation of engineering expertise in decision making.
  • Incorporates future traffic and economic needs in its decisions.