Thursday, August 02, 2007
DOT: 27 percent of bridges have problems
Anyone worried about their local bridges, and that must be just about everyone today, should check out a sobering report from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The headline: 27 percent of the nation's bridges have significant structural problems. Read on...

-- By Steve Turnham, CNN Producer

Posted By CNN: 11:29 AM ET
  14 Comments
I just looked up the stats on bridges in my state (TN) and was shocked to find that there are 19,590 bridges in this state, and that $65 million was cut from the budget in 2003 and directed elsewhere.

According to TDOT, structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges make up 17.2% or 1,391 bridges in my state. One can only wonder how this looks nationally, and how many more bridges might collapse in the years ahead around the country.

Also, a term many don't know called "scour" refers to the tendancy of soil in a river or streambed to be washed away by flowing waters. Where the MN 35 W bridge was located near a dam, I wonder if it didn't just sink on one end, resulting in the entire bridge going down from there.

From the one video that was captured as it collapsed, it does look as if it sank on the south side first, and then the rest of the bridge failed.

My prayers go out to all those affected by this tragedy.
Posted By Karen Lahteine : 12:48 PM ET
The state of this nation's roads and bridges is horrible. I feel for the Senators and Gov. of MN, who are left holding the bag to explain how this could have happened. However, as the comment above states, it's the entire country, not just one state.

A good Keeping Them Honest project for you would be to take a look at the construction comapies who win the bids to rebuild/retrofit America's roads, bridges, tunnels, overpasses. I'll give you one fact, in one of the last overpasses that fell down, due to an explosion of a tanker truck, the government of California paid the contractor $1million dollars for every day they came in under deadline.

The project was to take 4 weeks, they did the job in 7 days and collected their money. Do you really want to drive over that overpass?? I surely don't, but don't have much of a choice because it's a main artery in our freeway system.
Posted By Holly, Oakland, CA : 1:00 PM ET
Steve/AC360:
The infrastructure of this country is living on the edge of disaster.

From the NYC blackout to Minneapolis/St Paul bridge collapse; our leaders need to place the American people and our homeland as the first priority.

How many other disasters, whether an act of God or man-made errors, are going to pass before we start investing in this nation again?

By the way, where are we buying steel for these bridges? The US Steel mills or elsewhere?

There is a foggy line between what an acceptable standard is and what will pass code. Scrimping on quality materials will only lead to structure failure sooner and with more unpredictability.

Thanks for digging into this subject.
Posted By Max, Missoula, MT : 1:02 PM ET
Here in Georgia we got the bad news at least ten years ago: a survey of bridges showed that many of them were on borrowed time. The worst was over I95; the most critical ones were wooden bridges on dirt roads, but they needed fixing and so we heaved a sigh, anted up the tax money, and got to work. Most of them are done by now, and it was an irritating mess for years, but it's not something you can put off for long . . .
Posted By Bubba, Swainsboro GA : 1:58 PM ET
I'm outraged that over 158,000 of our nation's bridges are defined as deficient. How are we to know this before traveling on them? Maybe a posted rating is in order, much like the county health department ratings posted in full view in eating establishments. I want to see a big, fat number on the bridge before I cross it. 95% I go, 75% I don't.
Posted By B Drake : 2:36 PM ET
It's no surprize that this has happened. I'm really surprized that more bridges haven't fallen down. For years state government's have begged the government for money to replace the aging interstate system bridges. Obviously they would rather send money overseas than deal with the failing infrastructure here at home.
Posted By David Holmes : 3:00 PM ET
Steve,
The link you give shows stats as of 2004. One can only assume that conditions have gotten worse since then.

Would it be possible to find out how much the federal government has cut funds for infrastructure improvements in the U.S.?
We kind of know what they spend in Iraq.

Thanks for keeping us informed.
Posted By Jan Wood Dale, IL : 3:13 PM ET
We need to keep in mind that just because we've had this very unusual failure, we can't immediately replace every structure at risk in the U.S. Just like we can't completely safeguard every coastal city from hurricanes, or build every government building earthquake proof.

Reality tells us that we have, and will, continue to face tragedies that can't realistically be prevented. The sad truth is that by month's end, there will be dozens of lawsuits in this situation.
Posted By Andy : 3:29 PM ET
I hope voters realize that it will take more than one Presidential term to return the country to its pre-Bush condition.

Some damage can never be reversed, such as loss of life in Iraq, environmental destruction and infrastructure neglect.

When you go into that voting booth, think about the next bridge you have to cross.

Peggy S., Blountville, TN
Posted By Sews4you : 4:25 PM ET
Question is how old is the large bridge that we see next to the collapsed bridge. I am assuming that the bridge in the background is much older than the one that collapsed. Check out how that bridge is constructed versus the one that collapsed. It has very high with well built ARCHES!!!! The collapsed bride had no arches to speak of. Didn't the Department of Transportation engineers learn anything from the ancient Romans. I am willing to bet that most of the U.S. modern bridges and over passes are built in the same manor as the bridge that collapsed. Maybe we need to go back to the old way of constructing bridges....take a few lessons from the ancient Romans.

Susan Tongate, FL
Posted By Susan Tongate, Miami Beach : 9:34 PM ET
Thank you for posting this link. it is hard to grasp that over a quarter of our bridges or 1 in every 4 bridges in this country have problems - that is shameful. Where I work we would be fired for "quality" like this and what we do would not kill anyone - this as we have seen can and has. While there will always be tragedies and people dying from them, some can be prevented. Perhaps instead of spending all our money in Iraq we should spend it on our infrastructure to be sure we are safe.
Posted By Merrill P., Vestavia Hills, AL : 9:49 PM ET
Peggy, this is nothing to get partisan about. I commented above that Ga had to man up and pay for this stuff years ago, and the biggest obstacle was well-intentioned local commissioners and mayors who didn't want taxpayers stuck with a big bill. The voters had to be reached and shown the safety and convenience vs higher sales tax or millage before the local pols could help. A president is not a pontifex.
Posted By Bubba, Swainsboro GA : 9:54 AM ET
LA I-10 Twin Span Bridge-- Engineeers are limiting trucks to 70,00 pounds to cut down on the damage to the metal panels. However I don't see where the trucks are being checked for weight prior to accessing the bridge. In addition the speed limit on the the bridge is 45 mph in direction. The bridge was badly damaged by Hurricane Katerina. DOTD engineers are inspecting the bridge DAILY and closing lanes as required for almost daily repairs. How safe is this bridge? Check out DOTD website.
Posted By Mary Ann Quirin : 11:55 PM ET
I find myself wondering if it would have made any difference if fuel efficiency standards would have been increased years ago. Greater fuel efficiency would have put lighter cars on the roads, reducing the wear and tear on roads and bridges. Perhaps the bridge in the twin cities would still be standing...
Posted By Barry : 1:35 PM ET
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