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One-Lane Bridge Collapses Under Overweight Truck

Thu July 03, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Dena Potter - ASSOCIATED PRESS



RICHMOND, Va. (AP) A steel deck-truss bridge collapsed June 4, injuring a man who was driving an overweight concrete truck over it, transportation officials said.

Work was under way to replace the 158-ft. (48 m), one-lane bridge over Walker Creek in Giles County, which had been deemed structurally deficient under federal guidelines, said Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Heidi Coy.

The designation, which applies to 10 percent of the state’s 20,000 bridges, means a bridge must be monitored, inspected and maintained but does not imply that it is unsafe or likely to collapse.

Coy said the contract to replace the bridge was awarded last year, months before a similar bridge collapse in Minnesota killed 13 people. The bridge, built in 1932, was deemed structurally deficient in February.

“We maintain them as best we can, but periodically our bridges will need to be replaced,” Coy said.

The truck driver, Paul Bowman of Bluefield, was charged with failure to obey a highway sign and felony destruction of property, Virginia State Police Sgt. Michael Conroy said.

The bridge, in the White Gate community of the county, had a posted weight limit of 8 tons (7.2 t). Conroy said the truck was carrying 15.5 tons (14 t) of concrete, not counting the weight of the truck.

Bowman was taken to a local hospital with injuries that did not appear to be serious.

“This is an example of why we post weight limits on bridges,” state bridge engineer Ken Walus said in a news release.

The bridge carried about 25 vehicles a day on Route 713 over the creek, Coy said.

Construction on the new bridge is expected to be completed in the fall. VDOT was determining how to reroute traffic.