As rescue workers continue to search for victims of Wednesdays bridge collapse in Minnesota, Floridas transportation officials say motorists here should take comfort that our states bridge system is safe. But, Florida has its own tragic history with bridge collapses.More than 270 state-owned bridges around Florida are considered structurally deficient. But the Florida Transportation Department says thats just a technical designation that means the bridge needs eventual repair or replacement. We asked state engineer Robert Robertson for reassurance if one of those bridges happens to be on your way home. With what degree of certainty can you tell me that that bridge is safe? Robertson: 100 percent, Like I said, any bridge that we had any safety concerns about whatsoever would be immediately closed.But Florida has had its share of tragedies. Just three years ago, a trucker lost his life when the I-10 bridge in Escambia County collapsed during Hurricane Ivan. 35 people died when a freighter rammed Tampas skyway bridge back in 1980.The US 331 Bridge across Choctawhatchee Bay in Walton County has been knocked down twice when hit by barges. One of the incidents closed the only north-south connection in Walton County for a year. The bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis was 40 years old, but thats not unusual. More than 8-thousand bridges in Florida are at least 20 years old, and some date back to the early 1900s. We caught up with former state engineer William Nickas, who worked on repairs to the I-10 bridge after hurricane Ivan and now works for a private company. He says he knows what engineers and state officials are going through in Minneapolis, and his heart goes out to them as well as the victims families. Any time youre facing this you want to know why but at the same time you want to get mobility back to the region and let folks can begin to recover and when we were working on I-10 a lot of folks reached out to help us.Florida does inspect every bridge at least once every two years. And all bridges in the area get a once-over after a hurricane. Even though lawmakers are being asked to cut about a billion dollars from Floridas state budget because of a slumping economy, transportation officials insist bridge repair money is safe. Bridge repair and replacement is largely funded through the states gas tax, and transportation officials say that money is not on the governors chopping block. The state has 445 million dollars budgeted for bridge repair in the coming year.
/ Source: WJHG-TV