The bridges of North America have long been neglected at painful cost. But fixing and replacing existing bridges or building new ones is a costly – estimated at $123 billion - undertaking.
Nonetheless, when it comes to infrastructure, bridging the gap between substandard and functional is not only necessary but good business.
Anyone whose done any driving in the U.S. has crossed an older bridge and experienced an unsettling sensation of rattling and road vibration that only dissipates as the span disappears in the rearview mirror. The unease is justified.
Almost exactly 10 years ago, a bridge carrying Interstate 35 West over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145 more. The eight-lane bridge was Minnesota’s third busiest, carrying 140,000 people a day. The I-35 bridge was structurally deficient, meaning that it required significant maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement. Ironically, 300 tons of construction equipment and materials that had been stored on the bridge deck for ongoing repair work, were partly to blame for the disaster. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) concluded that a design flaw – gusset plates which connect the steel beams – were too thin and stressed by traffic and the additional weight of the repair equipment and materials…
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