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Inspectors to review all bridges similar to one in Minn. collapse

BOSTON -- A review of all bridges in Massachusetts similar in design to the one that collapsed in Minneapolis will be conducted by state inspectors.
/ Source: WHDH-TV

BOSTON -- A review of all bridges in Massachusetts similar in design to the one that collapsed in Minneapolis will be conducted by state inspectors.

Governor Patrick says the accident reinforces his call for a robust program of transportation infrastructure investment. While Massachusetts has 32 of the so-called steel truss bridges, none are considered in danger of collapse.

The governor said that after the Minneapolis collapse, which killed at least four people, he asked state transportation officials to review bridge inspection records to make sure they hadn't missed anything.

The steel truss bridges include 27 maintained by the state highway department, four maintained by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and one along the Massachusetts Turnpike. The bridges are scattered throughout the state.

Patrick said the accident buttressed his call for a robust program of transportation infrastructure investment, part of which will be included in a capital plan he is developing.

"It does make me anxious about the legacy of neglect that we are inheriting in this administration," said the governor, who took office in January.

All told, Massachusetts has 506 "structurally deficient" bridges, the same ranking as the collapsed I-35W span over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. The designation means a bridge is nearing the end of its useful life span.

Nonetheless, Patrick said the Massachusetts bridges were marginally above the national average in terms of condition. He said the "structurally deficient" designation gave him "concern but not alarm."

Bernard Cohen, state transportation secretary, said officials here are awaiting word from federal inspectors on the possible causes of the collapse in Minneapolis.

In the meantime, Cohen said, state inspectors will conduct an inventory of all steel truss deck bridges.

"We are asking all agencies with those bridges to review their inspection reports to determine whether or not any additional inspection of those bridges is warranted," Cohen said in a written statement.

Also Thursday, federal transportation officials urged states to conduct inspections of bridges similar to the steel-deck truss bridge that collapsed Wednesday.

Thomas Broderick, director of highway safety for the Massachusetts highway department said the investigation may not be limited to the agency's 27 steel truss bridges, but to all bridges which may possess similar features to the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis.

"Because many different types of bridges fall within this category, we will not know which bridges in the state are most similar until further investigation into the incident in Minnesota," he said.

The MBTA also has seven steel truss bridges.

Massachusetts' bridge inspection program is tougher than the federal program, which requires a visual inspection every two years. MassHighway requires a full, hands-on inspection of all bridges. Bridges in poor condition or worse are inspected every six months to a year.

Bridges are rated based on the condition of their deck (the portion that cars drive on), their substructure (the part below the deck including concrete supports), and the superstructure above the deck.

If any one of those three sections is given a rating of four on a scale of one to nine, the entire bridge is deemed structurally deficient.

Massachusetts has an average of 12 percent structurally deficient bridges, about the same as the national average, according to John Lamontagne, spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety.

"We have a very aggressive inspection program," Lamontagne said. "On an annual basis our inspectors perform 2,400 above water inspections and roughly 350 underwater inspections."

There are 5,050 bridges in Massachusetts, including 2,941 which span over water.

The number of structurally deficient bridge in Massachusetts has steadily declined from 864 in 1991 to the current number of 506, according to state transportation records.

From 1950 to 1970, Massachusetts experienced a "baby boom" in bridge construction with 1,857 bridges were built over that 20-year period.

Since then the construction of new bridges has slowed dramatically, meaning that many bridges are steadily aging and in need of regular maintenance. Nearly two-third of the bridges in Massachusetts are now more than 40 years old.

The MassHighway Bridge Inspection Unit has 38 full-time above water inspectors, five full-time underwater inspectors, 19 part-time underwater inspectors, and 16 Support staff and supervisors to implement the inspection program.

Last year, former Gov. Mitt Romney announced a plan to dedicate $1 billion over the next five years to the repair of more than 600 crumbling bridges across the state.

Massachusetts has long grappled with the issue of an aging transportation infrastructure.

In March a commission found that the state's roads, bridges and transit systems were in "broad decline" and that virtually every transportation agency was running on a deficit and resorting to short-term fixes to hide long-term financial problems.

The commission pegged the cost of maintaining the existing system at an additional $15 to $19 billion of new money over the next 20 years.

And just this week a second report by the Boston-based Pioneer institute found Massachusetts faces at least $17 billion in immediate deferred maintenance costs across the entire public spectrum, from roads and bridges to jails and universities.

Here's a list of 27 steel truss bridges maintained by the Massachusetts Highway Department similar to the one that collapsed in Minneapolis. Five others not overseen by MassHighway are not listed.

Acton - Parker Street over Fort Pond Brook;Acton - River Street over Fort Pond Brook;Agawam - Route 5 over Amtrak and Connecticut River;Dalton - Housatonic Street over Housatonic River;Deerfield - Route 5/Route 10 over Deerfield River;Deerfield - Route 116 over Connecticut River;Erving - Route 2 over River Road and the Connecticut River;Fall River - Route 79 northbound over Route 79 southbound;Fitchburg - Route 31 northbound over North Nashua River;Gill - Avenue A over Connecticut River and Canal;Gloucester - Route 128 over Annisquam River;Hadley - Route 9 over Connecticut River;Holden - Princeton Street over Quinapoxet Reservoir;Huntington - Route 112 over Westfield River;Littleton - Mill Road over Beaver BrookLowell - University Avenue over the Merrimack River;Ludlow - Route 21 over the Chicopee River;Mattapoisett - Acushnet Road over Mattapoisett River;Maynard - Mill Street over Assabet River;Monson - Moulton Hill over Vinica Brook;Montague - Mormon Hollow Road over Lyons Brook;Orange - Tully Road over Tully River;Sandisfield - Route 8/Route 57 over Farmington River;Springfield - Route 20 over Connecticut River;Waltham - Farwell Street over the Charles River;Wareham - Paper Mill Road over Weweantic River;Williamstown - Route 7 over Hoosic River & B&M Railroad;

Source: MassHighway

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