BRIDGE FAILURES

bridge.pngHow many lives have to be lost from bridge collapses before proper inspection and repairs are performed. In 2007, a bridge in Minneapolis collapsed killing 13 people. After the collapse, the haphazard system of inspections continued, but federal authorities did not require re-inspection of all fracture-critical bridges.

On May 23, 2013, a bridge collapse occurred on Intestate 5. The Skagit River Bridge, north of Seattle Washington, fell into the rushing river below. I-5 is the main freeway that runs up and down the entire west coast between the Canadian and Mexican borders. The bridge collapse occurred when an oversized truck hit part of the overhead span. The 1,112 foot steel truss bridge was built in 1955. The bridge was inspected by Federal Highway Administration in August, 2010 and was found “somewhat better than minimum adequacy to tolerate being left in place as is”. The section of the freeway carries 71,000 vehicles daily. According to a blog at usnews.nbcnews.com by Alastair Jamieson and Bill Dedman of NBC News, Washington State submitted its inspection report to the Federal Highway Administration. The overall evaluation of the bridge corresponds to a score of 5 (on a scale of 0 worst to 9 best). The same bridge received identical scores in inspections in 2010, 2008 & 2006. The bridge was on schedule for inspection every 24 months. This schedule is set by Federal Regulations. The 2012 report has not been issued to the public.

This bridge had a “fracture critical” design, the same design as 18,000 bridges nationwide . This “fracture critical” designation means these bridges can collapse even if only one part fails. The distance from the road to something a truck can bump into is 14.5 feet, the standard is 16 feet. Here the truck clipped the overhead span causing the bridge to fail and collapse into the Skagit River. Only three people were affected. A pickup with a husband and wife plunged into the river. Another motorist found himself in the river after an oversized truck clipped the bridge and it crumbled into the river. Master Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy said the collapse was “like a Hollywood movie unfolding in front of your eyes – up close and personal”.

The driver of the pickup, Dan Sligh managed to release his seatbelt and climb out of his mangled truck to shallower water. His wife also escaped. He suffered a dislocated shoulder and his wife was kept overnight in Skagit Valley Hospital. Mr. Sligh told the local news “I thought we were done. When I look at all the carnage, all the metal, I assumed that was it at that point”. The couple waited ninety minutes on the roof of their pick up awaiting rescue. The other car’s driver was not seriously injured either. The Governor of Washington, Jay Inslee said “I’m thankful there were no fatalities”.

The 18,000 bridges called “fracture critical” bridges must be thoroughly inspected. If any other bridges were to fail, the State and the Federal Government could be held liable for all injuries or death, as they are now, after two major bridges collapsed on notice of potential defects.

If you should have any questions, or require legal representation, please contact the Law Office of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC for a free consultation. You can reach us at (914) 288-0800.