Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Behind the Scenes at Caltrans: A Bridge Inspector at Work

In the wake of the collapse of a bridge in Washington on I-5 over the Skagit River on May 23, we received a number of inquiries along the lines of: Are Caltrans bridges safe? In a word, yes. Never in the history of Caltrans has a bridge collapsed due to neglect. Never. A truck hit or flood or fire may bring a bridge down, but a collapse has never and will never be the result of neglect.

All Caltrans bridges are inspected every two years. Any issues that might impact safety are addressed IMMEDIATELY. Seriously. We don’t mess around with this. If a bridge is open, it’s safe. Drive over it (or under it) with confidence.

In the photo above, Caltrans Senior Bridge Engineer Bing Wu inspects the Manhattan Undercrossing — that’s number 53 0062 in bridge-speak — on SR-1 in Manhattan Beach as KPCC Science Reporter Sanden Totten looks on. The inspection took place yesterday and included all visible parts of the bridge, though some of those parts required considerable climbing (and slipping) and crouching to get to.

In case you’re wondering, the bridge, built in 1930, is in good shape. We have some typical maintenance items to take care of, but this 83-year-old structure (widened in 1972), continues to do its job and do it well.