As an additional measure to ensure the safety of Virginia’s bridges in light of the bridge collapse in Minnesota earlier this month, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) began reinspecting 11 deck-truss structures in Virginia Aug. 15 to ensure that there are no safety issues.
VDOT also launched a new Web site to provide citizens with the latest information about VDOT’s bridges. The new site, VirginiaDOT.org/bridges, provides a clearinghouse for citizens to gather information about Virginia’s ongoing efforts to ensure bridge safety.
VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) conducted a detailed review of inspection records for all structures in the commonwealth immediately following the collapse of the Minnesota bridge earlier this month. Engineers determined that 12 of the commonwealth’s 20,000 structures feature deck-truss design elements.
VDOT immediately issued orders to review the most recent inspection records of these bridges to identify any potential safety issues. All 12 bridges had been inspected within the last two years, some as recently as May 2007.
“We found no significant findings noted in the inspection reports that would indicate any safety issues in these bridges,” said VDOT’s Chief Engineer Malcolm T. Kerley. “Although no one will know for many months exactly what caused the Minnesota bridge collapse or if it is related to its deck-truss design, we want to be sure that there were no structural safety issues on any of our deck-truss bridges. Therefore, we are sending independent inspection teams, different from those who last inspected the bridge, to physically re-inspect the structures as an added safety measure.”
The inspections will be completed by mid-September. Inspection reports are due to VDOT by Oct. 1.
One of the 12 bridges identified in the commonwealth with deck-truss design, the Route 100 Bridge over the New River in Wythe County, is already being replaced. The old structure still stands, but does not currently carry traffic. VDOT will not reinspect that bridge as traffic is already shifted to the replacement bridge. The other 11 bridges will receive a detailed, hands-on inspection by trained consultant bridge inspection teams.
“The bridge collapse in Minnesota is a tragedy that reminds us that there is no more important priority than the safety of our roadways and bridges,” said VDOT Commissioner David S. Ekern. “Work is already under way to replace four of the 12 deck-truss bridges we have in Virginia.”
VDOT inspects every bridge at least once every two years and more frequently for any bridge that has known concerns with age, deterioration or damage due to accidents. Any bridge that is found to have structural safety concerns is immediately posted with reduced weight limits or immediately closed to vehicular traffic if there are any significant safety concerns.
“We are confident that the motorists of Virginia are not traveling on unsafe bridges,” Ekern said. “We are going to continue to do everything we can to be sure our existing bridges remain safe for all travelers, and we will focus even more effort to ensure that a tragedy like what we are seeing in Minnesota does not happen here in Virginia.”