Paul Constant’s coverage of the I-5 Skagit River bridge collapse had a link to Bridgehunter.com, a site that catalogs and rates bridges across the US. I looked up a few that I travel over regularly and it’s pretty ugly. One has a sufficiency rating of 20 out of 100.
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better put a snorkel in your glove box
Some of the bridges we drive over frequently–might as well drink before I get drive, unbuckle, and start chain smoking.
Wonder how the bridges are in Benghazi.
A Ghost To Most
Worried about those canal bridges, mm? I would; many of them are decrepit.
c u n d gulag
Maybe if this happened in Washington, DC, then our politicians and pundits might have realized that in a period of near historic low interest rates, it’s not only cheap to borrow money, but smart, and borrow a few trillion to fix the rotting infrastructure in this country, and put people to work.
And that by putting people to work, it will help to pay that money back quickly.
But, of course, our Conservative Christians will say, “It’s just ‘God’s Will!’ And fixing bridges can’t help prevent ‘God’s Will!!!'”
Besides, gravity is just a theory.
And if God wants to keep bridges from falling, he’ll send his Engineering angels to heal them.
Just in case, the Republicans should put up big signs near each suspect bridge that say:
As you fall, remember you’re falling for FREEDOM!
@c u n d gulag: as a resident of Washington DC, I have to say you have an extremely mistaken notion of how much Congress (none of which is elected by us, and about half of whom run against the very idea of us) gives a rat’s ass about our city’s public works.
In Missouri, the House GOP is dead-set against a 1 penny sales tax increase to fund infrastructure. Good luck with yer potholes and bridge collapses!
I’ve noticed that the civil engineers lobby is once again successfully fooling reporters by lumping together “structurally deficient” bridges that are actually in immediate danger with what they call “functionally obsolete” ones which means “the traffic gets kind of congested at times so give us money to build a wider bridge with more lanes”.
Exactly. It is Economics 101. You have the government spend when the economy is not doing well. That time would be now, especially with rates this low. And by putting people to work, these people will in turn spend money, which in turn will put other people to work etc etc. It is called a multiplier.
It is just sad that there is a party (it didn’t used to be this way) that is hell-bent on destroying our government (defense being the one exception). The galling thing is that there are actually people dumb enough to fall for their economic arguments, which are utterly baseless.
Once upon a time, I would have thought fixing bridges about to fall down would be a no-brainer.
Little did I know it meant people with no brains would decide against it.
c u n d gulag
Sorry, you’re right.
The only thing they care about, is the traffic on the way to, and from, the nearby airports.
It is so frustrating! And yes there are the stupid ones and the stupid and crazy ones like Bachmann and Goehmert and that crazy lady from Ohio. There are also a lot of smart people who seem hell bent on destroying the country. Cantor isn’t stupid. What is his deal? I honestly don’t get how you can say you love this country and then let it literally crumble around you.
Thank goodness there were no fatalities.
As long as the death toll isn’t too high what’s the problem?
Villago Delenda Est
This is the result of thirty fucking years of “the government is the problem” mentality of people who do not understand the function of government, because they’re selfish screaming three year olds who don’t wan’t to be even asked to pay for infrastructure because they don’t have the intelligence to see that there IS something in it for them. They don’t get that highways fuel economic activity overall and that benefits them. Well, some of them do, but only in a narrow sense; Denny the Hutt made a killing in real estate when he shepherded some Interstate improvements through Congress that included an interchange where he happened to own some land.
It really is too bad the stupid does not actually burn, because the immolation of these fucktards would greatly improve the gene pool and remove a lot of dead wood from our civilization.
comrade scott's agenda of rage
As a resident of the reddest county here in Misery and one who works on the Federal side of transportation issues, yeah, it’s sad. The wingnuts who run the state pride themselves not just on opposing this but also having the lowest state gasoline tax in the country as well as the lowest cigarette tax in the country.
Oh yeah, we’re also the Billboard Capitol of the USofA with 12K+ and counting! We strive to make the driving experience complete.
It’s no wonder when you drive to KS, IA, NE and hell even AR and IL that the roads are almost immediately better when you cross the state line.
The bad news: A bridge I pass under twice a day on my bicycle commute has a structural rating of 2.0 (the bridge that just collapsed in Washington was rated 57.8 or so). The good news: It’s being fixed now, which inconveniences me a little, but a bridge falling on my head would inconvenience me a lot.
The County instituted a $5 surcharge on license plate renewals to help pay for the fix. When we bought a new car a couple of years ago, the dealer who filled out our license paperwork apologized all over himself for the extra fiver he had to include in our charges. We surprised him when we told him we liked the idea of paying to replace a failing bridge.
Not everyone is so taxophobic that we’d rather have a bridge fall out from under us than pay an extra five bucks.
Intelligence comes in many flavors and sizes. I’m really smart about some things, and yet I cannot balance my checkbook without a calculator; I always make some elementary error. ALWAYS.
So Cantor does just fine for himself. He simply doesn’t believe things that would interfere with what he wants. Lots of people do that!
It’s stupid and always bites them in the behind, but they do it anyway. Even smart people.
See I think it is just cynical. I think they have made the calculation that fixing things would create jobs and improve the economy and that they would rather things fall apart. Because once things fall apart they point and say–see government can’t do anything right and this is why we should starve it.
We did that back in ’03.
Fool me once ….
@MomSense: I think you are right. Which is pretty sick, isn’t it?
Villago Delenda Est
Yup, this. Their ideology, based on fantasy, conflicts with how the world actually functions.
The anti-government dipshits are not part of the solution…they’re a major component of the problem.
I have no doubt that what you are saying is correct. My comeback to that has always been “isn’t our military doing OK? And last time I checked the government was in charge of our military”.
The debate kind of stops after that…
Jay in Oregon
@c u n d gulag:
I prefer the term “Intelligent Falling”.
@MomSense: If we’re voting, I’m going to vote for the most cynical explanation. Always. I’m seldom disappointed.
Many functionally obsolete bridges are also structurally deficient. They may also be very poorly positioned with respect to the road or have inadequate guardrails – so while they may have adequate load carrying capacity they are dangerous in other respects.
While the ASCE (of which I am a member) does use a bit of hyperbole, there are plenty of terrible bridges out there. There’s a lot of very dedicated civil engineers working for the state DOT’s, consulting engineering companies (such as myself) and contractors who are ethical and understand the implications of our underfunded infrastructure.
ASCE isn’t to blame for the poor state of our infrastructure. We’re not running some kind of scam on people. Your roads are failing because you won’t spend the money to repair them & your legislatures allow ever increasing loads on them.
I went to check; my daily-crossing bridge isn’t on it, but the ones immediately up- and down-river are, and they’re rated just above 70. So I’ll hope that Bridge Street (Watertown/Bemis to Nonantum) doesn’t fall into the Charles.
Two more weeks, and that particular commute will end. WarriorGirl will graduate from Suzuki Preschool, and EVERYBODY is kicked out of the Newton Cultural Center to recreate the Carr Elementary School. Next year, she goes to school over by Cambridge.
there are two solutions for the problem of collapsing bridges
MORE TAX CUTS
Turn the entire highway / road system over to private enterprise. The government can’t do anything right and private industry has never had a failure of any kind ever except when government tried to regulate them or unions tried to organize workers.
So sick especially since we know for a fact they have no problem with deficits (Chaney said they don’t matter) or spending as the years 2001-2006 demonstrate.
If we had a functional media, perhaps people wouldn’t keep falling for their scam.
Wonder if Cole has any of the April Fools’ money left? He could give us cameras and we could travel the country documenting the broken stuff and talking to seniors who lost their meals on wheels, moms whose children can’t go to head start anymore, Medicaid patients who will now have to just die of cancer because they lost their funding.
c u n d gulag
@Jay in Oregon:
Fair warning, I am SOOOOOOOO stealin… LIBERATING that line!
Our forefathers understood that we would be the greatest generation ever, building this nation’s infrastructure for us on their tax dollars, so we wouldn’t have to be bothered with taxing ourselves. We’re the trust fund generation who can live off of the inheritance others handed to us and leave nothing for the generations who will follow, because, after all what have the unborn ever done for us?
@MomSense: Maybe we don’t have to. That’s what I see all over Facebook.
@c u n d gulag:
You can’t. I already done stole it.
I hope you are right. I grew up with a bunch of Republicans who are now neo-cons who approve of torture and post pictures of baby strollers with semi automatic rifles for handles so my facebook is awful.
@MomSense: Oh, yeah. There’s that. But that’s a kind of awakening… when you find out just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
I do think it helps put Republicans in perspective for those who still think of Eisenhower.
We dun’t need no fiksed up briges? Whatchis rong with u piple? You ghet some duck taip and taip ’em up. Git ‘er dun. And if yuz fall in duh river, well, y’all shud hav had dem dose butterfly floater doohickees yuz uze for lil kidz who are learnin to sweem. I ell ya, you lib sosulist commies eckspact everyting nowadaze. Wen my papee was alive. duh water wud part for him but becuz yuz commie pinkos took the christ out of duh skools, duh water won’t part no more.
The bridge I go over several times a day is rated 2.0 (as in two) out of 100. But I am free to seek an invisible-handy market alternative rather than worry about this socialist pile collapsing, so I am going out to buy my duck-tours-type boat-car with all the tax money I am saving. Suck on that, libs.
The Brooklyn Bridge gets a 0 out of 100.
“This bridge collapse brought to you by Grover Norquist and the Tea Party”.
Brooklyn Bridge in NYC – I walk, bike and drive over this bridge – sufficiency rating: 0.
(to be fair the assessment seems to be from 2010 and there is work going on.)
First it’s oil sands waste in Detroit. Now Albertans are collapsing bridges.
Should I fear an invasion coming to Alberta in retaliation?
20? How about a 4.
The bridgehunter.com listings do seem a little out of date: in Haverhill, Mass., it doesn’t even list a river bridge that got completely reconstructed and opened to traffic a few years ago, and doesn’t take note of major expansion/repair work that happened recently on another “functionally obsolete” one. But the listing for the Basiliere Bridge is alarming, and I have no trouble believing that it’s in danger of falling down.
…ah, I think I misidentified one of those: the one I was thinking of isn’t listed either.
Also, one they listed as a dire case in Groveland actually is in the process of being reconstructed.
Radiohead lyric Mistermix?
Like Spinning Plates is I Will played backwards with new lyrics.
AHH onna Droid
@pagodat: Yes, they can be full of shit but some functionally obsolete bridges are in fact unsafe. Local mpos and public input are supposed to help focus on needs and not let the process be governed by ego.
AHH onna Droid
@FlyingToaster: omg, that used to be my stomping grounds. California St and the Watertown Yard. I walked that bridge changing buses, 71 70, 59 52, 552 553. Watertown cop snarling traffic at rush hour. Garden City usa.
@ranchandsyrup: Simon & Garfunkel – going old school today, them and REM.
For those interested, besides bridgehunter.com (whose focus is older bridges), there is also the sister website uglybridges.com which should be the entire database of 621,530 bridges listed in the NBIS database. Since these are privately maintained, I am not sure how often the database is updated (it appears that the last major database update at the website was 2010).
All publicly owned bridges in the United States are supposed to be inspected on a biennial basis. This was instituted after the Silver Bridge collapse in December 1967 near Point Pleasant, WV. When a bridge is replaced, it might take 3 to 5 years for the inspection cycles & database updating to catch up.
Case in point – http://uglybridges.com/1487834 – this is a bridge currently being replaced in Columbia SC. I was the lead structural engineer for the design. We completed the plans in August 2009. The existing bridge was inspected in 2010, probably right before the demolition started. The replacement bridge should be completed later this year. I would imagine it won’t be inspected until 2015 or 2016.
@mistermix: Gotcha and thanks. It was your REM thread that got me thinking about RH due to the relationship between Stipe and Thom Yorke. Have a good one man.
@ranchandsyrup: I thought it was from “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Aaaand … mistermix #49 agrees!
@Seanly: Ah, I get it. Yeah, the uglybridges.com site seems to have all the bridges in my town listed. Doesn’t make me feel any happier about the Basiliere, which seems to be a genuine menace downtown.
I may be too late here, but I’ll try.
I’m a highway design engineer working in NC. I’ve replaced bridges all across the state for the last 29 years, so I hope people will understand that I know what I’m talking about on this subject.
Basically, the sufficiency rating being thrown around on sites like “uglybridges.com” is a scare tactic. The SR doesn’t mean “OMG a bridge with a SR of 10 is going to collapse”. It does mean it’s getting really close to when it needs to be replaced. A brand new bridge has a SR of 100. That value declines automatically by 2 points every year if routine maintenance is kept up on it and it’s not damaged by something. It’s a value that tells the state “hey, that bridge over there will need to be replaced in a few years”.
With regular maintenance, even a bridge with a SR of 5 is absolutely safe to drive across. At some point, though, a bridge gets to the point where even remedial corrective measures cannot keep up with deterioration. At that point, the bridge gets a “Posted xx Tons Limit” sign. That means the maintenance teams cannot keep it strong enough to stand up to the usual 40 ton maximum legal load on the US’ roads. If the bridge is not replaced, the maintenance guys start reducing that number on that sign. It will go from 35 to 30, all the way down to 5 tons. At some point they’ll close the bridge because it’s not safe for anyone to drive over. So, don’t worry about the SR value for any bridge; start worrying when you see a “Weight Limit 10 Tons” sign or similar notice as you approach the bridge.
Oh, also, when a bridge’s SR value reaches 50 or lower it is then eligible for the state-administered Federal Bridge Replacement Program, where 80% of the cost is covered by the Federal highway funds each state receives annually. Since that is about halfway through a well-maintained bridge’s life most states wait a few more years before replacing them, but once maintenance costs start climbing, a project to replace the bridge gets added to the state’s program.
I saw some other people say “engineers are lumping into the SR value the bridges that are considered ‘functionally obsolete’ to scare the public, when all that label means is the bridge needs to be widened to keep up with traffic demands.” WRONG
“Functionally obsolete” is a catch-all for bridges that means “this bridge isn’t designed to current standards”. That’s it. It could have old bridge rails on it, the deck could be made of wood with a little asphalt on top, the shoulders might be too narrow or they might not be there at all, and yes, the bridge may need to be widened to carry the current traffic. All those conditions are thrown into the “functionally obsolete”. A bridge with, for example, no shoulders and the old ‘post and beam’ bridge rail has points deducted off its SR value; I don’t know how many points but it’s not a lot, maybe 5 or so. It’s another way to tell the engineers “hey this bridge has components that should be addressed”, and some times the maintenance guys can beef up the bridge rails to bring them into current standards. If it’s something else on the bridge often we replace or widen the bridge when the road is worked on adjacent to it.
Now, the I-5 bridge collapse wasn’t because the bridge was worn out, or it wasn’t being maintained (it had a SR of 57). It failed because a truck hit and damaged a critical girder, and on a truss bridge a damaged critical girder will cause the entire span to collapse. That appears to be what happened; an oversized truck hit the girder, it failed and took the span down with it.
That’s why I hate seeing websites and commentators claim this failure and the one up in Minnesota a few years ago are examples of the nation “ignoring our infrastructure needs”. They didn’t fail because of a lack of maintenance or funding, they failed from human error. I fully support needing more money for infrastructure repairs and upgrades, but this most recent bridge collapse is a bad example to use to make that point.
In fact, the bridge I was fretting about above has one of those… and large trucks regularly drive over it anyway, since the city isn’t actually doing anything to enforce the limit, because they’ve got no way of doing so (no scales and nowhere to put them).
They did ban their fire trucks from driving over the bridge a couple of years ago.
Fortunately, Massachusetts actually does seem to be putting some money into bridge repair/replacement, so we might see some action on it in the next few years.
I drove over this bridge on my up to (and back from) Anacortes at the beginning of the month. Kinda creepy.
Been busy today but here are my comments. I’m a resident of the Puget Sound area and have driven that bridge many, many times. It’s ugly and wholly inadequate for the volume of traffic in that growing area, and obviously inadequate if you need to move an oversize load through, but there was nothing to my untrained eyes that suggested something like this could happen. Clipping a couple of girders, needless to say, shouldn’t cause a complete failure of part of the structure.
North-south traffic through that area is going to be nightmarish for a while. The side streets of Mt. Vernon and Burlington, where most of it will be shunted, are already getting very bad without the interstate added.
Kind of a shame that the House is in the hands of lunatic far-rightists who don’t even know where Washington state is, much less care what happens here. The state doesn’t have much money right now and is weighing its options; the best would be to fast-track a brand new, modern, six lane bridge, but I’m not holding my breath.
Here’s the article explaining how the bridge was dropped.
“the top right front corner of the load struck several of the bridge’s trusses”