We're sure you've heard of the recent bridge collapse in Washington. According to USA TODAY, "The 58-year-old bridge had a 'fracture critical' design, meaning loss of a single structural support could undermine the crossing.
In light of that incident, officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) are working to educate residents and visitors about ways to help keep our state's bridges safe and maintained.
"We have comprehensive inspection, rehabilitation, and maintenance programs in place because our bridges play a vital role in connecting people to work, school and popular vacation destinations," said Transportation Secretary Tony Tata.
Our Asheville personal injury lawyers understand that close to $500 million in state funds have been thrown into our area's bridges to help to repair, preserve and replace these critical structures. Thankfully, the Transportation Department has been able to improve roughly 1,000 bridges. But is that enough? According to the current proposed state budgets, officials are looking to spend roughly $300 million to keep the program going for the next two years.
Under federal law, each of our areas bridges are required to undergo an inspection every two years. If a bridge has been found to be unsafe, the department is required to close the bridge, stop travel and repair it accordingly.
In an inspection, officials take a look at the substructure, the superstructure, the expansion joints, the decks and the railings. When these bridges are inspected, they're given a condition rating and a list of what repairs need to be made.
In the state of North Carolina, we have close to 14,000 bridges. Of these bridges, close to 3,000 of them have been deemed "Structurally Deficient." This means that it's okay to drive on, but there are things that need to be done to get it up to current safety standards.
A bridge can also get a "Functionally Obsolete" rating, which means that the bridge is safe, but needs to be replaces to keep up with traffic demands. Currently, there are close to 4,500 bridges in the state with this rating.
Currently, we have close to 40 bridges that are the same kind of bridge that was involved in the recent Washington accident. We're not trying to scare drivers, we're just trying to raise awareness about the risk that are involved when driving over a bridge.
With these conditions, we're asking drivers to be cautious out there. Sometimes, there's no getting around a bridge. When this is the case, make sure you approach every one of them with extreme caution and safety. When driving over a bridge, please try to eliminate all distractions while driving. When there is the possibility of a car traveling in the opposite direction only inches from your car, being mindful of your surroundings and paying attention to the road can potentially save you from an accident and injuries. Avoid changing lanes on bridges or making any sudden movements. On wrong move could wind up taking lives.
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