What Do YOU Think: Can Our Bridges Come Crumbling Down?

(Photo courtesy of OC Register)

As soon as I saw this in The Register, I just had to read it.

Two dozen bridges in Orange County are flagged as “structurally deficient” by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Bridge Inventory. Sixteen have ratings equal to or worse than the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed last week. […] All of the deficient bridges are old, built before 1970. One of them, on Ortega Highway, was built in 1929.

Uh-oh. This doesn’t look good. Check out all the structurally deficient bridges in Orange County. Does this mean that our infrastructure is in dire need of repair?

“I have full confidence in the bridges on the state’s highway system and I would have no problem driving my family over any of those bridges tonight.”

That’s what Caltrans Director Will Kempton has to say about our bridges. Now do YOU agree with him? Should the Minneapolis tragedy be a wake-up call for our transportation authorities in Orange County and the State of California to fix the broken bridges? Or are our local authorities already doing a good job of maintaining our infrastructure?

Go ahead and have your say. Do you think our bridges are safe? Or are we actually close to seeing a repeat of the Minneapolis bridge collapse occur here in Orange County?

  2 comments for “What Do YOU Think: Can Our Bridges Come Crumbling Down?

  1. August 5, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    There’s also Gordon Dillow’s column : The bigger picture on bridges. While I usually don’t agree with the OC Register’s columnists, Dillow does make a good point:

    But what was less widely disseminated is that just because a bridge is deemed “structurally deficient” doesn’t mean it’s only one over-loaded station wagon away from falling down. As transportation officials hastened to point out, about 95 percent of the “structurally deficient” bridges in California have only minor problems – and they swear that none are in imminent danger of collapse.

    ” ‘Structurally deficient’ could be something as small as the bridge needs a new sign, or there’s some chipping in the concrete,” notes Joel Zlotnik, a spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority. “People shouldn’t be alarmed.”

    That being said, I don’t think that there are bridges that are close to falling down. However, I do think that a review of them all – more than just a visual inspection – is in order. Furthermore, as stated in the original Register column that you quoted, is this:

    “The problem is that [biannual]inspection relies on visual inspection so it’s very subjective and sometimes you can’t see hidden damage,” said Maria Feng, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Irvine.

    For the last six years, Feng and her colleagues have been working on new ways to monitor aging bridges via acoustic, fiber-optic, microwave and vibration sensors that detect stress, corrosion and other internal problems. Yet the attempts to integrate the new technologies into the inspections have been hampered by a lack of funding.

    If I were a member of the state legislature, I’d sure look into that technology more. Save a buck or save a life…not a hard choice.

  2. Andrew Davey
    August 5, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    Thanks, Gary. Oh yes, and good observation. Maybe we’re not in immediate danger, but this is still a risk that shouldn’t be ignored. And as you said at your blog, this IS something that we can employ new teachnology to fix.

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