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Bridging the Gap: ODOT marks Anniversary of Minneapolis Bridge Collapse

State resources target safety on bridges with similar design.
New outreach effort offers insight to local bridge needs.

COLUMBUS (Tuesday, July 29, 2008) – Detailing the efforts of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to improve bridge safety over the past year, ODOT Director James Beasley is marking the first anniversary of the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis with the launch of a new public outreach effort to highlight the conditions of Ohio’s aging bridges.

“Each day in Ohio, hundreds of thousands of drivers cross over our bridges. These structures connect businesses with markets, workers with jobs, people with health care and education, and families with loved ones and home,” said Director Beasley, at a news event along Columbus’ Broad Street Bridge, just blocks from the Ohio Statehouse.

“As we pause and remember the 13 lives lost and the 144 more who were injured nearly a year ago, we also take note today of how this one event 700 miles away placed a renewed awareness on the work we do to preserve, maintain, and modernize our infrastructure here in Ohio,” added the Director.

ODOT has an aggressive bridge inspection and preservation program. Home to more than 42,000 bridges - the second largest inventory of bridges in the nation - Ohio requires more inspections on more bridges than any other state. Ohio is the only state to require annual bridge inspections – twice as often as federally required.

Under Governor Strickland, ODOT has also devoted a significant amount of its annual budget to bridge preservation and modernization. Since the beginning of 2007, more than half-a-billion dollars has been directed to improving state and local bridges, with an additional $354 million programmed over the next year.

A major national report issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials shows that one out of every four U.S. bridges needs to be modernized or repaired. Immediately making all of the necessary improvements would cost at least $140 billion nationally; in Ohio, that cost is estimated at $4.2 billion.

“Even with ODOT’s aggressive investment into bridge preservation, we are looking at the legacy of ‘Baby Boomer’ bridges built during the Interstate era,” said Director Beasley. “These bridges are aging, and so often it becomes a matter of ‘running in place’ to keep up with repairs, nevermind preventive maintenance or building new bridges that are needed.”

In the year following the Minneapolis bridge collapse, ODOT has taken additional measures to ensure the safety and longevity of the 16 bridges in our state that share a similar design. Immediately after the collapse, state bridge inspectors revisited the 16 bridges with the similar deck-truss design, located in Cuyahoga, Lake, Summit, Fairfield, Washington, Warren, Hamilton, Lawrence, and Columbiana counties.

Each bridge has since been re-inspected; the majority are in excellent condition (in terms of sufficiency and general appraisal ratings). However, additional attention was placed on three of the structures, including the I-90/Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland, where the department will soon begin a $10 million preservation project which includes reinforcement of several gusset plates - steel plates that tie beams together on the structure.

While no final conclusions have been reached in Minneapolis, federal investigators have suggested that a design issue with gusset plates on the I-35W bridge may have contributed to the tragedy.
A $140 million major preservation/rehabilitation project on the Innerbelt Bridge is currently scheduled to begin in 2010, to ensure full and reliable use of the Innerbelt Bridge into the foreseeable future.

Repairs were also made to the State Route 2/Main Avenue Bridge in Cleveland to strengthen two lower cord members of the structure. Also completed was an ongoing bridge painting project – which adds to the longevity of this steel structure by preventing corrosion.

In Lake County, crews are working to replace the I-90 structures over the Grand River. The new westbound bridge is complete and open to traffic. Crews currently work to demolish the old eastbound bridge, with construction of a new bridge to begin in late August.

 “As a department and as a state, we are doing all we can to make sure that Ohio’s bridges are safe and reliable,” said Director Beasley. “But it is not a failure of inspection or design or construction that leads to most bridge failures. In fact, the primary causes are natural disasters or man-made disasters such as freeway crashes.”

In marking the anniversary of the Minneapolis collapse, ODOT has also launched a new online public awareness effort to highlight bridge safety. In addition giving user-friendly definitions to bridge engineering terms like “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete,” visitors to ODOT’s website at www.dot.state.oh.us will be able to learn more about the state’s bridge inspection program, including inspection information on bridges in their area.

For more information, contact:  Scott Varner, ODOT Central Office Communications, at 614-644-8640.

A listing of the 16 Ohio bridges with a similar design to the failed Minneapolis bridge – as well as the most recent inspection report and recent history of action - can be found by visiting the:
 Bridging the Gap: Protecting, Preserving and Modernizing Ohio's Bridges page.