by Paul Balles
Seattle, Washington – An Interstate 5 bridge collapsed into the Skagit River, dumping two vehicles and a trailer in the waters north of Mount Vernon. A law-enforcement source said 150 yards of the interstate dropped into the water.
“It’s a hell of a ride,” the source said.
A 2012 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services reported: “The bridge, built in 1955, has a sufficiency rating of 57.4 out of 100, according to federal records. That is well below the state-wide average rating of 80, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data, but 759 bridges in the state have a lower sufficiency score.”
According to a 2012 Skagit County Public Works Department, 42 of the county’s 108 bridges are 50 years or older. The document says eight of the bridges are more than 70 years old and two are over 80.
Washington State was given a C in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 infrastructure report card and a C- when it came to the state’s bridges. The group said more than a quarter of Washington’s 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
Business Insider’s Henry Blodget recently wrote on the need for infrastructure spending in the United States: “Something that drives that point home is how badly some of our essential infrastructure has decayed. As of last year, 11.5 percent of US bridges, crossed by an average of 282,672,680 vehicles daily, were graded ‘structurally deficient’ by the Federal Highway Administration.”
It’s been less than a month since the unnamed bridge collapsed. Since no one was injured or killed it has been forgotten already, except by the thousands of drivers who used it daily.
There are many more bad bridges including 19 structurally deficient bridges shown with deficiencies explained on Business Insider:
Transportation for America reported that “despite billions of dollars in federal, state and local funds directed toward the maintenance of existing bridges, 68,842 bridges — 11.5 percent of total highway bridges in the U.S. — are classified as “structurally deficient,” requiring significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers has recommended that the United States spend $17 billion a year on bridge maintenance, significantly more than the $10.5 billion that is currently spent each year.
Some structurally deficient bridges are more dangerous than the most recent failure in Washington:
Ira Flatow, speaking for Science Friday, said “Five years ago this month, the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, sending a full load of rush-hour traffic into the Mississippi River. The disaster injured nearly 150 people, killed 13. The bridge was literally falling apart.”
Barry LePatner, writing in SaveOurBridges.com, noted that 72,000 bridges are deemed structurally deficient, “But in addition to that, there are 7,980 bridges that are fracture critical, meaning they were designed in the ’60s and ’70s, so that if one critical member fails, the entire bridge goes straight down. There’s no redundancy to support the bridge.”
There’s a way to solve the lack-of-adequate-funds problem. Many bridges are named, like the George Washington Bridge in New York and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Philanthropists and companies love to have things named after them. It’s time to solve the bridge problem and satisfy the desires of philanthropists or companies to have their name recognized by hundreds of thousands of drivers who use these bridges every day.
Be charitable and get recognition at the same time. Contribute to making a bridge safe and having it named after you or your company.