Minneapolis Bridge Collapse-harbinger of Things To Come?

A 40-year old bridge collapsed, into the Mississippi River, killing 9 (20 missing). I think the same thing is going to happen here in MA-for decades, i’ve watched 1960’s era bridges and overpasses rotting away. they don’t get maintained, and the politicians just say"we have no oney to fix them". Apparently, all of the $16 billion spent on the “Big Dig” has eaten up every penny for normal maintainence. anyway-who pays when bridges collap[se? Can state governments be successfully sued for negligence? Do these disasters usually spur some kind of reform?

What bridges in MA?

Where I’m from (Worcester), they’re completely re-doing 290 through the city, including building new bridges. They are doing the same for 146 (Worcester to Providence).

There was just a show on NPR about how little money is being spent on infrastructure repair (after the steam pipe explosion in NY). Several years ago, I had heard a figure of 5 Trillion dollars being needed to fix all the decaying roads, bridges, pipes, etc.

I heard the same figure. But unfortunately it won’t happen until a pipe bursts under a lawmakers ass, or one of them falls in the drink off a rotting bridge…

There’s always hope.

Well, I’m a little leary of this number. You can easily fudge the number to any unimaginable high amount by noting that all structures start to decay, and hence can just take the sum total value of all roads and bridges in the country…

Sure,it’s easy to float any number at all, still, on the NPR show, their guest mentioned that they had infrastructure repair needs of 1.6 Billion dollars, and only had funding for 1 Billion (this was Newark, NJ, I believe). If this is extrapolated across the entire country, I could easily see 5 Trillion dollars of repairs being needed.

Who pays when bridges collapse? Generally the state and federal governments.

Can states be sued? You betcha. Happens a lot.

Do these disasters spur some kind of reform? Yes indeed. The reason there even is a National Bridge Inspection program is the Silver Creek collapse in Ohio in 1967. The reason that scour evaluations are required for river bridges is the Schoharie Creek failure in New York in 1987. Major regulatory changes in the bridge business have generally occured as a response to castastrophic failures.

Heard there was plenty of money going to building some dandy bridges, roads, and other infrastructure in Iraq.

You guys sure have some messed up priorities!

Bridge Problems:

In MA, we pay heft gas taxes and tolls. I don’t see any maintainence on many overpasses and bridges-in fact, one bridge i regularly cross (Western Ave. Cambridge0 was built in 1924-and appears to have had NO maintainence at all. This bridge spans the Chrles River , and I have been underneath it-chunks of masonray have fallen away from the arches, and the piers are of cemented masonry blocks-which have never been repointed. Someday, there will be several 18-wheelers on this bridge, nad stalled traffice. A catastrophic failure will happen, and everybody will be wondering “why”?

I think we know why. It’s because political leaders prefer to concentrate on pointing out how many taxes they have reduced.

That and spending the taxes that are collected for infrastructure on new things whose ground breaking and dedication ceremonies they can attend. The public lets them get away with it because taxes are unpopular at any time and maintainence just ain’t sexy.

Bond issues can be floated also. Unfortunately, that’s not attractive right now either.

From the report I read, this bridge was already under repair…so obviously there were funds somewhere to fix it. I don’t know if the repairs had anything to do with the collapse, or if they waited too long to repair. Its going to be a while before they model this one out and figure out why exactly it failed.


The repairs were only being done on the surface, not on the structure itself. The resurfacing is pretty much a regular, annual maintanance. I don’t think were any current plans to overhaul the substructure, just to replace the whole bridge sometime in the next 10-15 years.

Interestingly enough, there was a show on the History Channel just 2 days ago about collapsing freeway bridges. I was truly amazed when this bridge collapsed so soon after I saw the show. Made me wonder…

Anyway, according to this show, 1/4 of the highway bridges in the US are rated as “deficient.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will all collapse tomorrow, but that they do not conform to current codes and definitely need repair.

Are these records in the public domain?

I’d like to see which bridges I across that are deemed “deficient.”

I heard an interview on NPR where the expert said that 25% of American bridges are deficient, and one bridge every week, on average, collapses in the U.S.!!

If that is true, I’m amazed this wasn’t more of a concern before the horrible accident in Minnesota.

ETA: Although I did hear this, it boggles the mind to believe it is true, so I can’t help but doubt the veracity of the claim.

I read somewhere (or heard it on CNN) that many bridges (and other structures) are engineered so that there will be warning of a failure.

I was living in Seattle when the new Husky stadium was being built, and collapsed. (My husband was working on it, actually.) They had plenty of time to get everyone out of the way. I’ve been wondering if the stadium had the kind of engineering that the CNN guy talked about, or if they just saw the steel start to buckle.

One of the bridges that I cross every day now has a sign saying “Safe for one truck only. Prepare to stop.” It’s a bit worrisome.

Check post #9.

Atomiktom You heard 25% and FBG heard 1/4 ??

Gee, I wonder which figure is correct.

I’m going for 3/12, myself.