17,000 bridges in the US have not been inspected for over 2 years. That means someone physically goes and looks for cracked steel, missing bolts, deteriorating concrete, etc. Should this alarm you? It does alarm me even though I can do nothing about it. Chalk it up to one more danger on the highway. Of course, this danger is not supposed to be there. I mean this is America! We have engineers and laws and procedures.
When a bridge is inspected, it can fall into 3 categories.
- Not deficient: not structurally deficient and not functionally obsolete.
- Functionally obsolete: does not meet current criteria for deck geometry (e.g., lane width), load carrying capacity, clearance, or approach roadway alignment.
- Structurally deficient: needing significant maintenance attention, rehabilitation, or replacement. A bridge is always rated as structurally deficient if it gets a rating of “poor” or worse on any of its three main components: deck, superstructure, and substructure, or if its overall structural evaluation is “intolerable.”
A footnote from our government . . . a rating of functionally obsolete or structurally deficient does not necessarily mean the bridge is unsafe. Wow, that makes me feel better. How about you? Would you go up in a skyscraper or even climb a ladder that was “structurally deficient”? I wouldn’t sleep in a bed that was “structurally deficient.”
There’s more. 622 of these vulnerable bridges that are allowed to be on a four-year timetable are “fracture critical.” The bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis last summer was “fracture critical.”
The plain fact is we have too many hogs feeding at the trough and the barn is falling down. Now if a few of us get killed when the barn falls it is bad but not near as bad as cutting back on the feed. Will we ever have leaders who will get rid of some of those hogs, cut the size of the troughs and the amount of feed going into them? The hogs don’t think so and I don’t either.