Bridges Still Shaky a Year after Collapse

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One year after the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour traffic, little has happened in the way of repairing problematic bridges across the United States.

The Associated Press conducted a review for the 20 most heavily-traveled but structurally deficient bridges in each state. They found that only 12 percent of U.S. bridges had their structural defects fixed.

The 1,020 bridges reviewed by the AP are not in imminent danger of collapse, state engineers and highway officials say. But the most common approach has been to plan for repairs rather than fix problems now.

The AP has found that nearly two-thirds of the busiest problem bridges in each state have had no work beyond regular maintenance. Those spans carry nearly 40 million vehicles a day.

Economic, Political Problems

The lack of follow through had nothing to do with lack of effort, officials said. Instead it was sky-rocketing construction costs, budget shortfalls, election-year politics, a backlog of bridge projects, competing highway repairs and bureaucracy that often held bridge work to only incremental progress.

The worst states are Indiana, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and South Carolina, where construction was done on only one of each state's 20 most heavily traveled structurally deficient bridges.

The collapse of the eight-lane Interstate 35W bridge into the Mississippi River on Aug. 1, 2007, killed 13 people and brought immediate calls for repairs to bridges across the nation.

Investigators haven't yet issued a final determination on the cause of the Minneapolis collapse but have said a flaw in the bridge's original design was the crucial factor.

The tragedy sparked a rush of emergency bridge inspections, an extra $1 billion from Congress for bridge repairs, and promises from leaders to tackle the problems.

Minnesota's Response Most Vigorous

Minnesota's response to repairing bridges has been among the most vigorous.

The state's officials wasted no time closing or partially closing three busy bridges after those inspections found flaws. The state also moved quickly to replace the I-35W bridge.

It is the goal of contractors to complete work by Sept. 15 -- 100 days before the deadline.

Source: The Associated Press

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