At 5:30 AM Wednesday, a 911 dispatcher in Wisconsin received a call from a motorist in which he reported that “There’s a part that’s sagging,” referring to a section of the Leo Frigo Bridge. Another caller would add even more mystery to the situation: “That bridge is sagging in the center. I came over with a tractor trailer and she jumped that, the wheels came off. There’s something that’s not quite right.”
When police arrived on scene at the bridge, they discovered that the callers were very apt in their descriptions – a 400 foot long, 20 inch-deep dip had formed in the bridge at some time during the night. As of now, investigators believe that the dip in the bridge has been caused by a settling of one of the bridges piers.
The Leo Frigo Bridge was built in 1980. It is 1.51 miles long, making it the second longest bridge in Wisconsin. Daily traffic on the bridge is around 40,000 vehicles per day.
In August 2012, inspections revealed slight cracks in several piers. However, engineers said that these were signs of normal wear and tear of a concrete bridge of such an age. Websites which access federal bridge data had rated the structure of the bridge to be “good” or “satisfactory” throughout the 2012 year.
Engineers have stated that they believe the pier will have to be replaced in order to correct the issue plaguing the bridge. Due to the unique failure of the bridge, officials do not know how long repairs will take. Motorists in the area hope that the issue is resolved quickly: “It’s a big hassle, because of all the construction that’s going around town. The downtown bridge was closed for how long? Now this one is out? It’s just like it’s a never-ending problem here.”
Bridge deficiencies have been plaguing America for some time, now. In 2007, Minnesota experienced a deadly bridge failure which led to 145 injuries and 13 deaths. Washington saw a bridge collapse earlier this year after a truck hit one of its support structures.
The 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure rates US bridges at a C+, quite an astounding rating considering the current state of our bridges. One out of every 9 bridges (11%) in the US is rated as structurally deficient, with the average age of a bridge being 42 years. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that in order to fix every structurally deficient bridge in the US, the country would have to spend $20.5 billion annually. Currently, the US spends $12.8 billion.
The infrastructure of the US saw its last great overhaul during the New Deal from 1933-43. FDR set up a program called the Public Works Administration, which sought to construct roadways, dams, and public buildings. President Obama has announced intentions several times to start similar infrastructure programs, but no efforts have yet prevailed. In a country which is struggling to increase its federal revenue and provide employment to its citizens, it seems as if a newer New Deal program would prove extremely beneficial. However, all hopes of doing so will prove impossible if the government does indeed shutdown.
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