After that terrifying day last year when we saw the I-35 bridge collapse over the Mississippi River, most of us will still think twice when we drive over a bridge. The safety cameras caught the horrifying moments on tape as we saw the bridge and cars crumble like a toy building block structure. These commuters didn’t have a chance once the domino effect of this structurally deficient bridge began to fall down. On that day over 100 vehicles were involved with over 145 serious personal injuries, and tragically, 13 people were killed.
This year state lawmakers have finally approved a compensation fund for victims of this tragic accident. The state has set up a 38 million fund to be divided between the accident survivors and families affected by the injury accident. For those injured, there was a negotiated settlement that allowed for each victim to collect $400,000 in lieu of suing the state for their part of the liability. Additional monies are available for future medical expenditures for those with serious personal injuries.
Was this a good deal or not for the people involved? Have you been in a similar accident situation? All of these questions and more can only be answered by consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney. Obviously, the state will do what’s best for them and not necessarily what’s best for the injured people involved. You need someone on your side while you recover to protect your interests and if necessary, long-term care.
Still the thought remains, how could this happen and could it happen again? The answer is absolutely! There are over 75,000 “structurally deficient” bridges in the United States. In the case of the I-35 bridge, it had been inspected each year and had a deficient rating since 2001. Although the National Transportation Safety Board is winding up their investigation, it is clear that the steel truss design of the bridge was not sound. Presently, there are over 700 similarly- designed bridges throughout the country.
How about us here in Orange County and Southern California? Of the 24,128 Californian bridges, over 3,000 are designated as “structurally deficient” and close to 4,000 are considered obsolete. California has the 5th worst bridge problem in the country! Caltrans is trying to reassure the public, saying that the bridges would be closed if there was any imminent danger, but of course, that’s what the Minnesotan officials said as well.
Officials are concerned because some of the busiest bridges in Southern California are also the ones that are in the most urgent need of repair. Two of the bridges are along the 710 Freeway; the Oak Street Bridge and the Metrolink Bridge. Officials say both of the bridges will need to be replaced and are in some ways worse than the one that collapsed in Minnesota.
Orange County currently has 24 bridges classified as “structurally deficient”. Many more are obsolete. As defined, a structurally deficient bridge is closed or restricted to light vehicles because of its deteriorated structural components. While not necessarily unsafe, these bridges must have limits for speed and weight. A functionally obsolete bridge has older design features and, while it is not unsafe for all vehicles, it cannot safely accommodate current traffic volumes, and vehicle sizes and weights.
For a full list of bridges in your area that may have safety issues, go to the Orange County Register’s Bridge Safety Database and search on your city or street. It can be found at www.ocregister.com and search for “O.C. Bridge Safety”.