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Statistics on Bridge Safety

Some experts are warning that the Minnesota disaster is a wake-up call to the danger of deteriorating bridges across America.
/ Source: KDLT-TV

The latest count was more than 160,000 bridges, 27% of the nation's total, called structurally deficient by the American Society of Civil Engineers. In South Dakota there are roughly 4,600 bridges.

About 1,300 of those are inspected by the State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

The other 3,000 are under the eye of local officials.

On average, South Dakota bridges are about 40 years old, roughly the same age as the I-35 W. Bridge in Minneapolis that came tumbling down.

Bridges in America have failed before. Tacoma Narrows in 1940, due to bad design. The Silver Bridge collapsed in 1967, when steel corroded. 46 people died. The Hatchie River Bridge in 1989 fell when concrete eroded. 8 people died. Now Minneapolis: a bridge rated condition 4 out of 10, meaning serious deterioration.

A survivor in Minneapolis says, "It was about a 30 to 50 foot freefall. My truck is completely split in half."

Some in congress are angry.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin says, "The unfortunate thing is that of all the bridges across the country, 40%, 40% are threatened with destabilization."

Rep. Peter DeFazio, a democrat from Oregon, says, "There are thousands of bridges who have a condition 4 problem on them! Americans are driving over them everyday!"

William Wilkins, who's with a National Transportation Research Group, says, "Many of the bridges in this country are 60-70 years old and they were built with a design lifespan of 50 years."

The South Dakota Department of Transportation says state bridges are in relatively good shape.

The D.O.T.'s interim secretary Darin Bergquist says less than 10 of the state's bridges have reduced load capacity because of safety concerns. The D.O.T. says all bridges are inspected every two years and critical bridges, like those over the Missouri River, are inspected annually.

Inspectors look for cracks, corrosion, improper connections and other potential problems.

It would take about $65 billion to fix the nation's bridges.

Right now, annual spending on bridge maintenance is only $11 billion.