May 27, 2013
The Interstate 5 Bridge over the Skagit River 60 miles north of Seattle collapsed on May 23, landing three people and their cars in the river. This is certainly not the first bridge failure. Everyone remembers the 2007 rush-hour collapse of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, killing 13 people and injuring hundreds more.
In 1989 there were three major bridge collapses: the Cypress Street Viaduct in Oakland, California, killing 42 people; the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, connecting San Francisco and Oakland, California, killing one person; and the Hatchie River Bridge in Covington, Tennessee, killing eight people.
President Obama, in his State of the Union Address this year, urged repairs of the “nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.” But words are cheap.
The Seattle bridge was not even deemed “structurally deficient.” It was classified as “functionally obsolete.” A truck with a supposedly oversized load may have hit some of the trusses while crossing the bridge, leading to its collapse. Having a low clearance is exactly why the bridge was obsolete and ultimately led to its demise.
Over a quarter of this country’s bridges were classified as “functionally obsolete” or “structurally deficient” in 2012. One-third of the existing bridges have exceeded their 50-year design life.
The bridges in this country are as broken and deficient as the capitalist system itself, which appears incapable of solving this problem, even with millions of people out of work. What’s it going to take to fix the bridges?
Maybe some politicians in Washington will get some first-hand experience on one of the city’s bridges – with 77 percent of them classified as deficient!