Transportation Cabinet: “Structurally Deficient” Bridges Are Safe

Reported by: Ellen Bryan
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Updated: 5/25/2013 12:00 am

After a 160-foot section of a bridge on Interstate 5 collapsed Thursday night in Washington, new questions are being asked about the safety of Kentucky bridges.

A national bridge database lists several of Kentucky’s bridges as “structurally deficient,” but transportation engineers said this doesn’t mean the bridges aren’t safe.

David Steele, a Transportation Engineer Branch Manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said when a bridge is structurally deficient it has been rated poor in either:

(1)   Deck

(2)   Superstructure

(3)   Substructure

Steele said these ratings are not bad enough to make the bridge unsafe for driving, even though they will be added to a list for repairs.

Engineers said a bridge that had many potholes could be labeled structurally deficient.

Kentucky bridges are checked every one to two years according to Steele.

“Trying to address the bridges so they don't break down and deteriorate,” he said.

Steele added bridges could fall apart if an overweight truck drives over them.

“It's quite possible. The bridges are not indestructible,” he said. “You just hope that the truck driver is going to abide by the regulations and just pay attention to what they're doing.”

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