After Washington collapse - Are bridges here safe?


On Thursday a  bridge collapsed that forced the closure of a major highway north of Seattle.

Three people are recovering after their cars plunged 25 feet into the river below. We want to know how safe are bridges here at home? A bridge engineer for the Department of Highways explained the criteria needed for a bridge to pass inspection.

Tim Powell told 59 News bridges in his District are inspected on average every 2 years. He told us the criteria comes from the Federal Highway Administration.

"On this particular bridge you would look at everything from the load carrying members which are the steel beams or girders, you would look at the supporting members, the abutments, the piers and you would look at the condition of the deck," Powell said.

In District 10, which cover Wyoming, Raleigh, Mercer and McDowell counties, they inspect over 800 bridges. The Bridges have four possible grades: near perfect, good, poor, and critical. Powell gives us an example of what would fall under "critical" condition.

"If one of the sub-structure units appear have obsessive cracking or if it appears the overall integrity has been damaged. It doesn't mean the bridge will collapse, it just means it needs to be given attention," Powell added.

Travelers said they'd like to see action taken to make bridges safer.

"They're not going to change all bridges over night but for future design purposes, they should handle it offensively and defensively," said a traveler from North Carolina.

"As far as being up to standards and codes, there's a lot of bridges we go over every day and we just don't know it," another North Carolina traveler told us.

A woman passing by from Florida told us because of bridge accidents like in Washington state and Minneapolis, every time she crosses a bridge it causes a concern.

"We had friends in Minneapolis that suffered the disastrous bridge collapse and since then I've thought about it," said Maureen Welch.

The West Virginia Division of Highways is responsible for 6,800 bridges, and almost half of them are more than 100 feet in length.

One of the most famous bridges in the world, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, officially opened this week 75 years ago.

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