It's been a rough week for bridges around the U.S. At about 7 p.m. local time in Washington state yesterday a bridge spanning the Skagit river north of Seattle (part of Interstate 5) collapsed after a truck carrying a tall load collided with one of the spans, sending two cars plunging into the river below. The three people in those cars all survived with non-life-threatening injuries, but it should probably come as a surprise to no one that the bridge--which services about 71,000 crossings of the Skagit river every day--is rated "functionally obsolete" by the Federal Highway administration.
As noted above, the collapse didn't happen purely due to the poor state of the bridge. A tractor-trailer carrying an overly tall load struck one of the overhead supports on the bridge as it crossed, precipitating the collapse. That doesn't sound like something that should happen, but the author acknowledges that he is not a civil engineer and does not understand all the nuances of bridge building.
Although to really understand this particular collapse one would need to be a civil engineer circa 1955, which is when this particular span of I-5 was constructed. The rating of "functionally obsolete" doesn't mean that this bridge was structurally deficient, but that its design is outdated, particularly in some specific ways. For instance, its shoulders were too narrow. And perhaps more importantly, its overhead clearance was too low.
In a November 2012 inspection it scored 47 out of 100 on a sufficiency rating. And it's not alone. A quarter of Washington state's 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. And lest you be shaking your head wondering how the bureaucrats in Washington state ever let it come to this, be advised: If you're currently in the U.S., your state likely isn't doing much better. Collectively America holds a D+ rating on its infrastructure report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers (who actually are civil engineers). Those engineers estimate we need $3.6 trillion in investment by 2020 to shore up our crumbling infrastructure (there are a few ways to do this, like this and this). No big deal.
In other, more video-friendly infrastructure news, this 300-yard wooden railway bridge caught fire and collapsed in Lampasas County, Texas, (that's just northwest of Austin) earlier this week. Firefighters were on the scene for 15 hours trying to save it this rail link spanning the Colorado river before it succumbed to the fire damage. This bridge--which was built in 1910 and still handles regular railway freight--didn't collapse from infrastructure deficiencies (that we know of). But it did collapse spectacularly.
This is what happens when people want to slash taxes and fight a few wars at the same time.
@Wanamingo No that's what you get when you OK an oversized over weight load access to a bridge without proper clearance.
The truck was carrying drilling equipment hit one of the supports causing it to collapse.
Comments like yours is what you get when you drink too much of the liberal Kool aid.
"we need $3.6 trillion in investment by 2020 to shore up our crumbling infrastructure"
If a public power company like TVA or Bonneville was mandated in some sort of a FDR New Deal to replace all US fossil infrastructure with nuke power it could be done for about the same investment in time an money but at a 40% rate of return on investment to the economy overall.
Right now greedy American companies are sitting on $2.5 trillion in cash sitting in Swiss bank accounts. The money was donated by taxpayers who borrowed it to provide tax breaks.
Tax it back and put America back to work!!!!
Granted, this particular bridge collapse was the result of an overly tall structure on the vehicle passing through, as you noted. But Wanamingo is correct in pointing out that our country's infrastructure priorities are backwards. In fact, despite building many more roads and bridges in the last 15 years, the US has less annual funding for infrastructure than it had in 1998.
And I don't believe it takes liberalism to despise unnecessary wars, especially those as expensive as the two we're currently withdrawing from. Regardless of your political leanings, the US needs to spend where spending is needed, not prop up oil companies, tank manufacturers and rich people while depriving basic, crumbling infrastructure of desperately needed funding. I am a Civil Engineer, so trust me when I say we need it.
@derosanick82 Coming from a resident of Washington for the last 35 years he is wrong.
The reason Washington states infrastructure is having issues is because the state send all transportation dollars into the "General Fund" thereby creating a sacred cow with no accountability. The last audit the WSDOT underwent was 4 years ago. It took them 18 months to come up with even a partial reply. Even then the state auditor found over $2 billion dollars in waste. That's not including the $570 million WDSOT loaded to the Seattle port authority that cant be accounted for. The comment from derosanick82 was made in the context of this bridge collapse and from in that context he is flatly wrong.
Fair enough, I'm certain Washington is just as inefficient with their DOT dollars as New York is. But the sad fact does remain, in my own context, that the national funding for infrastructure is insufficient, and no amount of waste reduction will keep our sprawling road system maintained without increasing the total funds available.
The issue isn't a lack of funds its a lack of accountability and oversight. Per the latest CBO the government agency with the highest error rate for mismanaged funds is the department of agriculture with an error rate of 10%. They have a $1.5 trillion dollar a year budget. That means that annually the either wrongly provided or can't account for $150 billion dollars. Yeah yeah I know blah blah Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm talking souly about wasted funds
The government is creating money to maintain jobs, when the economy can not afford the money output just the an eventual economic crash and correctional economic adjustment.
We the government are in debt up and over our eyeballs and you are spending inflationary moneys keeping the banks afloat of which YOU allowed the levels of risky loans they gave to the people for housing you wanted politically, of which they were not credit worthy, while then and now the social security program and rising health care problems never got fixed.
Hello! Look where we are at now. All the money is going to pay debt and not left for infrastructure and at an inflationary cost we will never afford anyways.
Bridge collapses and other infrastructure collapses is only the beginning with no moneys coming to solve the problem.
I live in a state that has prioritized highway infrastructure spending. We have wide and efficient freeways, new bridges, and minimal traffic problems. Manannan is exactly right about the root cause: mismanagement of funds and bad priorities at the state level. This isn't a U.S. problem, it's a state problem, and taxing people more and ending wars doesn't fix it. Fixing your state government by electing the right people does.
As a side note, when people think a problem can be solved with more money it's interesting how often they want to take that money from defense spending (the government's primary responsibility) and attempt to raise more by taxing businesses. How about reform spending on social programs too (which is not mandated by the Constitution), which make up the lion's share of the federal budget and where there is a lot of waste?
And there are consequences when you increase taxes on businesses: they pass it on. The cost of consumer items and services goes up, and businesses move out of state or out of country if it makes economic sense to do so, which takes away jobs. In effect it's a tax on consumers and blue- and white-collar workers even though we think it's just a tax on business.
O_o; The difference in reporting between Canada and the U.S, I tell you. He didn't "collide" with the bridge. He didn't even get knocked out of his lane, he kept going. If he'd hit the support with any force, his load would have been unbalanced, he would have been knocked about, he would have certainly done something that would have caused his lead in front to stop and back up in a hurry. It wasn't until the truck was *across the bridge* that it started to fall into the water.
Was it NOT HELPED by the smack the support get? You betcha. But at fault? Hell no. BUT! If they blame it on a truck hitting it, well, gollee, then it's got nothin' to be doin' with the lack of fundin' goin' into silly things like bridges!
Vancouver area, we have THREE bridges almost identical to that one. The standards for their condition are so above that one's it's frightening. They've been upgraded, reinforced and are on the list to be replaced. They can endure a 8.2 earthquake. That bridge wasn't even rated for a 6.0.
If I read this report correctly and this I-5 bridge was built in 1955, that means was a year before the Interstate Highway system was authorized by Eisenhower in 1956.
How did your and my comment get moved down?
What did we spend that $892 Billion dollar stimulus package on in 2009?
Given the collapse of the bridge in Washington state it sure wasn't spent on infrastructure.
Bridges are collapsing but we have unlimited billions to send illegal aliens to college and provide lucrative child tax credits to illegal aliens who don't pay taxes and don't belong in this country.
We have billions to send to foreign countries.
We have 50 billion to give to GM that it used to build factories overseas
We have trillions to give to international bankers.
Decades ago we had one income families and enough tax dollars to build our infrastructure, today we cannot even maintain it.
We are being robbed on a scale never seen in history.
Wanamingo, you ignoramus. We have GIVEN Obama hundreds of billions every year to repair the infrastructure. Every time the budget issue comes up he gives his infrastructure speech and Congress caves and gives him enough to put us another trillion in debt every year that he's been in office. Has he followed through on his "shovel ready" construction promises? Not even remotely. The money goes to services run by unions to "create jobs" and to expand government bureaucracies to the point that they create 5 times as many rules & regulations as Congress passes laws. He has created an unaccountable tyrannical government behemoth with the hundreds of billions we've borrowed from communist China, not a safe, modern infrastructure. And no, taxes have INCREASED and the wars have drawn DOWN, but WHAT has that utopian marxist done with all that money? What?!?
We have an epidemic out here in the Great Northwest. Idjits overloading trucks and 'truckers' not knowing the bridges along their route corridors. Think this is new? Not even. A town not 30 miles from me has a guy that has created a longstanding cottage industry out of pulling wedged semi's out of a train overpass. Not like these brain donors can say they shouldn't have known. Our bridges get hit so much you'd think people were aiming at them.