California has many of busiest ‘structurally deficient’ bridges
August 3, 2007
LOS ANGELES (AP) ” California motorists make millions of daily crossings of bridges and overpasses classified as “structurally deficient” like the span that collapsed in Minneapolis, but state transportation officials say none are in danger of falling down.
Of the 50 most heavily trafficked bridges and overpasses deemed structurally deficient in the United States, 38 are in populous Southern California, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the Federal Highway Administration. Of those, 32 are in Los Angeles County, five in Orange County and one in Riverside County.
Bridges with the designation in Essex and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey have the most traffic in the country.
Drivers in the three Southern California counties alone make more than 27 million crossings of structurally deficient bridges each day.
Federal transportation officials classify a bridge structurally deficient if it needs significant maintenance, there are plans to replace it or if weight restrictions are imposed upon it.
California Department of Transportation Director Will Kempton said, however, that the designation is broad.
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“Being on that list does not mean that the bridge is in danger of falling down,” Kempton said. “There are many reasons bridges are placed on that list.”
About 95 percent of California’s deficient bridges have so-called deck problems such as eroding pavement, peeling paint, or missing highway signs, he said.
The remaining 5 percent _ which the department said would take days to identify _ are being attended to, he said. They might include bridges with foundation problems, cracking in concrete or steel or heavy corrosion.
“There is no bridge in our system that is in danger of collapse at this point,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the city of Los Angeles’ Department of Public Works, which is responsible for maintaining more than 530 bridges in the city, said Los Angeles motorists have nothing to fear. Spokeswoman Tonya Durrell said state inspectors haven’t informed the city about any bridges in danger of carrying heavy loads.
“We don’t see any imminent threat of these bridges collapsing,” Durrell said.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich said, however, that the data serves as a reminder of how important it is to maintain infrastructure in an area with so much motor traffic.
“This is a wake-up call and we’re directing the Department of Public Works to ensure that all county bridges are inspected and analyzed for structural safety,” he said.
Ted Nguyen, spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority, said Kempton sent an e-mail to the agency Thursday assuring it that Orange County bridges are safe.
“We will take any action if and when it is appropriate and necessary,” Nguyen said.
Juan Perez, Riverside County’s deputy director of transportation, said the agency plans to replace three bridges in the county’s jurisdiction that have been deemed deficient. They are inspected at least once every two years by the state, he said, and remain safe for traffic.
“They are used by thousands of people a day,” Perez said. “The risk factor isn’t any more today than it was yesterday.”