Should You Think Twice About Crossing That Bridge When You Come To It?

If you’ve turned on the television in the last few years and seen reports of dangerous bridge collapses in the U.S., you might be surprised to learn that these are not freak accidents. Earlier in April, a section of concrete fell from a bridge in Chattanooga Tennessee, causing the closure of two interstate ramps. What does this say about bridge safety across the nation?

Too Many In Need Of Repair

There are more than 47,000 bridges in the U.S. that are in dire need of repair. Many fall under the heading of “structurally deficient,” meaning that they are safe for public use, but are in dire need of repairs. When a bridge is inspected, it is rated on a safety scale. To receive a structurally deficient rating, one of the four main elements of the bridge’s safety must be rated below average, or “poor.”

When a bridge is compromised for safety, the state’s Department of transportation can impose weight limits or close the bridge all together to decrease risk. 61 bridges in the state of Mississippi were flagged for closure in recent weeks due to unsafe conditions. This can make it more difficult for motorists to get around.

Basic Bridge Safety Statistics

Recent data based on 2018 shows that:

· There are 616,087 bridges in America
· 47,052 of them are structurally deficient and in need of immediate repair
· 235,020 are in need of some type of repair
· Americans cross structurally deficient bridges 178 million times each day
· The average age of a structurally deficient bridge is 62 years

The states with the most structurally deficient bridges (based on the percent of their total bridges):

· Rhode Island - 23%
· West Virginia - 19.8%
· Iowa – 19.3%
· South Dakota – 16.7%
· Pennsylvania – 16.5%

The states with the highest number of compromised bridges:

· Iowa – 4,675
· Pennsylvania – 3,770
· Oklahoma – 2,540
· Illinois – 2,273
· Missouri – 2,116

Reasons for Collapse

Bridges don’t just collapse for no reason. There are many factors that can compromise their structural integrity. Factors such as traffic, geology, and building materials need to be taken under account when the bridge is being designed. If these factors are miscalculated, the results can be tragic. Many times, a bridge collapse is due to several factors that come together into one big mess. Common factors for collapse include:

· Flooding. The earth around and underneath bridge piers can get worn away, and sediments can shift drastically, when a flood occurs. The collapse can happen days to months later. The American Society of Civil Engineers determines that 53% of all bridge collapses are caused by flooding.

· Construction accidents. Many bridges collapse during the building or repair process. Though the number of cars on a bridge under construction is quite low, the number of construction workers can be high, leading to a large number of fatalities.

· Manufacturing defects. It takes a long and detailed investigation to make this determination. Sometimes, a small area of the bridge fails, causing a collapse. Other times, its low-quality or faulty materials that weaken over time and cause the devastation. A high number of collapses and fatalities have been caused by these defects.

· Poor maintenance. It’s very difficult to diagnose this problem after a bridge collapses. Stringent inspections and routine maintenance is required of all bridges to ensure they continue to function safely. Rusted parts should be replaced, drainage areas cleared, and reinforcements added as traffic flow increases.

The Repair Work Is Slow Going

Bridges are inspected on a regular basis, but some issues can be difficult to detect. Safeguards are put into place to prevent imminent danger and collapses. Still, there are weaknesses that are left to chance, with little more thought until another high-profile collapse occurs.

At this time, bridge repair work is the slowest it’s been in five years. Many states are focusing more on improving pavement conditions than on bridge repair. At the current rate of progress, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says that it would take 80 years to complete the repairs on all of the bridges that need work.

The Power Of A Good Legal Team

Anyone who is injured or harmed as the result of a bridge collapse should seek legal advice on how to proceed. The negligent parties can be difficult to pinpoint and can vary based on the cause of the event. A good legal team will go above and beyond to determine exactly who neglected to do their job and cause such a traumatic event.


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