What does a poor rating for a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh mean for others? – CBS Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A 50-year-old bridge that collapsed in Pittsburgh was rated poor in a recent inspection report, but transportation officials and engineering experts warn that’s not necessarily signal impending danger to thousands of other US bridges with the same designation.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Highway Administration scoured the rubble after the early Friday collapse of the Forbes Avenue Bridge, looking for the cause of the accident. cause it.

READ MORE: Pittsburgh Bridge Collapse: Mayor Ed Gainey Will Sign Disaster Emergency Declaration


(NTSB/Twitter Newsroom Photo Credit)

President Joe Biden, who was in Pittsburgh on Friday to push for a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, said it was miraculous that there were no deaths and only a handful of injuries. love.

An inspection in September 2019 found the bridge deck and superstructure to be rated 4 and in what inspectors said was in poor condition. City officials said the most recent inspection report of the city-owned steel bridge from September was not available on Friday, so it is unclear if the numerical rating has been updated.

Advocates of infrastructure spending note that there are thousands of bridges across the country with the same shabby design but very few cases of collapse. Many commented that the funding did not keep up with the repair and replacement needs.


The Federal Highway Administration’s bridge inspection program was developed after the 1967 Silver Bridge collapse in West Virginia, which killed 46 people. It has expanded over the years to include municipal and state-owned bridges, not just those in the interstate highway system, and includes rules for underwater testing and regulation. qualification of inspectors.

In general, bridges are inspected every two years, with some older or lower quality bridges being inspected more frequently.

The city or state agencies that own and maintain the bridges submit such inspection reports to state transportation departments, who are required to provide them to the Interstate Highway Administration state.


Inspectors, who are trained engineers, largely perform detailed visual inspections of the three main structures of a bridge – the deck over which the vehicles pass, the deck carrying structure and the substructure or sluices hold that superstructure. Other methods of testing are used underwater or when necessary to determine if corrosion will affect the weight a bridge can carry.

Andy Herrmann, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, said that if any of the bridge’s three structures are rated 4 or less on a 9-point scale, the bridge will be rated. is poor.

A poor rating doesn’t mean the bridge is unsafe, it just means that one of those components is rated at that level, Herrmann said. “It’s a rigorous system, and honestly, the federal system is what makes me believe in the safety of our bridge infrastructure.”

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New bridges are rated 9, and bridges with minimal or no wear are rated 7 or 8. Bridges are reviewed for what the federal program considers fair condition. or satisfactory – some signs of damage or loss or cracking – rated 5 or 6.

When a bridge reaches a rating of 4, it means that there has been severe damage or loss of section, but the major structural components are still in good condition. A rating of 3 means those structural members are starting to degrade and a rating of 2 or 1 means there are serious problems or imminent damage to the structure.


One of the goals of the inspection program was to create a system that could identify damage that could be repaired before the bridge needed replacement.

Sometimes the damage is so mild that the bridge will have to be queued up for repair and the frequency of inspections will increase, said Jerome Hajjar, professor and department chair at Northeastern University’s College of Engineering.

“Once a bridge is added to the queue, it can take years before funds are available to make those repairs, even if it is added to the top of the state queue,” Hajjar said. “Engineers worked on as many repairs as they could. Safety and keeping the bridges safely open is the goal, but the struggle involves insufficient funding to repair the aging infrastructure in this country, including the bridges.”

If more serious deterioration is detected, authorities will limit the amount of weight that the bridge has to bear by restricting heavy vehicles or vehicles. In severe situations where the structure is affected, a bridge can be closed immediately for repair.

The Interstate 40 bridge connecting Arkansas and Tennessee across the Mississippi River was closed in May after inspectors discovered a crack in one of two 900-foot (275-meter) crossbars critical to structural integrity. structure of the bridge, forcing thousands of trucks and cars to detour until the bridge reopens at the end of July after repairs.


The American Association of Roads & Transportation Builders, an advocate for transportation infrastructure investment, produces an annual report on the state of bridges in the United States based on audit reports. check. The most recent report using 2021 data found that more than 43,500 of the country’s approximately 615,000 bridges were rated as poor.

That number is about 4,000 less than the numbers reported in dire conditions nationally in 2017. The association’s advocates say it’s a frigid pace for repairs and dedicated funding. is very important to catch up.

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In Pennsylvania, the association’s report found nearly 3,200 bridges had poor ratings – down from nearly 1,000 bridges five years ago. But more than 2,100 of those bridges have reached the point of deterioration requiring weight or traffic restrictions. What does a poor rating for a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh mean for others? – CBS Pittsburgh


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