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Can your bridges withstand a hit by a heavy semi?

Posted By John Latta On July 18, 2013 @ 8:00 am In The Roadologist | No Comments

A portion of the I-5 bridge collapsed into the Skagit River in Washington State in May. (Photo: AP/Elaine Thompson via The Huffington Post) [1]

A portion of the I-5 bridge collapsed into the Skagit River in Washington State in May. (Photo: AP/Elaine Thompson via The Huffington Post [2])

A disturbingly large number of America’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete (see Better Roads’ November bridge inventory [3]). But how many are “fracture-critical [4]?”

Washington State’s collapsed I-5 bridge [5] was fracture-critical when it was hit by a heavily loaded truck. But it is far from alone in the state of Washington in that classification and far from alone in Washington in being fracture-critical AND hit by a vehicle, according to a new report.

KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio reports [6]: “There are more than 200 bridges in Washington that could collapse if a key part fails. They’re classified as being fracture-critical, just like the Interstate 5 span that plummeted into the Skagit River in May after it was hit by an oversized load. Out of those fracture-critical bridges, at least three others have been struck multiple times in the past five years. Experts say repeated bridge strikes can potentially cause catastrophic problems.”

Which begs the question: How many bridges in your state are fracture–critical? And how many get hit regularly?

Much of a worry will depend on the definition. After all, functionally obsolete or structurally deficient doesn’t mean the bridge won’t do its job [7]. But our transportation infrastructure is aging and showing the frailties of age, and politicians who want to keep funding for its upkeep at its current woefully inadequate levels benefit from a public (yes, as in ‘voters’) that often doesn’t see the deterioration at work.

How would the pubic know if a bridge they cross is at risk? Rarely are shortcomings obvious. Fracture-critical bridges may be another of those problem we don’t come to grips with until there are enough I-5s to hold our attention for longer than a couple of days [8].


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URL to article: http://www.equipmentworld.com/can-your-bridges-withstand-a-hit-by-a-heavy-semi/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.equipmentworld.com/files/2013/05/o-SKAGIT-RIVER-BRIDGE-COLLAPSE-facebook.jpg

[2] The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/26/skagit-river-bridge-collapse-temporary-bridges_n_3340409.html

[3] see Better Roads’ November bridge inventory: http://www.equipmentworld.com/better-bridges-2012-bridge-inventory/

[4] fracture-critical: http://www.equipmentworld.com/more-than-200-washington-bridges-are-fracture-critical/

[5] Washington State’s collapsed I-5 bridge: http://www.equipmentworld.com/i-5-bridge-collapses-causes-no-fatalities/

[6] KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio reports: http://www.kuow.org/post/bridges-washington-suffer-repeated-hits

[7] functionally obsolete or structurally deficient doesn’t mean the bridge won’t do its job: http://www.equipmentworld.com/2013s-bridges-a-skagit-river-reminder/

[8] until there are enough I-5s to hold our attention for longer than a couple of days: http://www.equipmentworld.com/remember-the-alamo-bridge-in-washington/

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