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I-5 bridge collapse: Is a bridge you drive next?

The collapse of a section the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River, a few hour north of Seattle, highlights, yet again the dangerous condition of much of the nations transport infrastructure. Through sheer random dumb luck, no one was killed when the span of the bridge collapsed, sending two vehicle into the river below.

The collapse brought back reminders of the 2007 I-35 Bridge collapse, which killed 13 and injured 145 people in the car accidents that resulted from the collapse. For drivers on highways across the country, there is the continuing risk of more than 66,000 "structurally deficient" bridges and 84,748 "functionally obsolete" bridges, many in areas that carry tens of thousands of vehicles every day.

An author of a book on this failing infrastructure notes that there have been "nearly 600 bridge failures" since 1989. Most have not been high profile interstate highway bridges, but if you are driving across them at the wrong time, the fact that you did not make CNN's headline news may be the least of your concerns.

In Hawaii, 146 bridges have been found to be "structurally deficient" and are awaiting millions in repairs or replacement. Some bridges, like the 80-year old Karsten Thot Bridge in Wahiawa, have to be closed for emergency repairs. The state reports that it currently only has funding for eight of the 146 bridges in need of replacement.

These bridges in Hawaii and across the U.S. present a growing risk. Congress needs to act to begin a serious program to upgrade these bridges to today's safety standards.

Source: Christian Science Monitor, "Skagit River bridge collapse: Not the only one waiting to happen," Brad Knickerbocker, May 27, 2013 

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