November 29, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
30°F
test

Bridges across U.S. under scrutiny after collapse

   ST. LOUIS (AP) — Governors around the nation scrambled Thursday to conduct bridge inspections, ordering engineers to review the safety of thousands of structures a day after a span over the Mississippi River collapsed in Minneapolis.

The Federal Highway Administration issued an advisory, backed by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, urging state transportation departments to conduct inspections of bridges similar to the steel-deck truss bridge that gave way.

There are 756 such spans, according to highway officials. No list of bridge locations was available.

As Minnesota’s Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered the immediate inspection of three such bridges, states such as Missouri and Massachusetts identified their own steel-truss bridges to inspect.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said officials planned to evaluate all 6,400 of the state’s bridges, regardless of whether the structures are maintained by state, local or federal governments.

University of Missouri-Columbia civil engineer Glenn Washer said Wednesday’s catastrophe may spur states to revise how they fund bridge inspection and repair.

“There are almost 600,000 bridges in this country, with an average age of 42 years,” Washer said. “There is a massive effort by state departments of transportation to inspect, monitor and maintain bridges, but implementing some of the new technology and getting the work done is a significant challenge.”

Other states ordering new inspections included Illinois, Michigan and New Mexico.

Nationwide, about 12 percent of the nation’s bridges were classified as “structurally deficient” in 2006, meaning they are deteriorating, according to a report issued by the Federal Highway Administration.

Another 13 percent of bridges were classified as “functionally obsolete,” meaning they are structurally sound but no longer meet transportation standards and demands.

In Missouri, where 11 truss bridges came under immediate scrutiny, state Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Briggs said more than 1,600 of the 10,240 bridges in the state’s highway system have been deemed “structurally deficient.” That figure does not include thousands of bridges under the watch of cities and counties.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said none of his state’s 27 steel truss bridges are considered in danger of collapsing, but he still asked transportation officials to review inspection records.

States such as Texas and Georgia were confident that routine bridge inspections would be sufficient. Texas officials, for instance, inspect every bridge on a public road at least every two years.