Are our county bridges safe?

Our bridges seem safe for now and since they're county bridges, there isn't quite as much traffic.  But, even though the traffic is light, everyone is driving heavier vehicles and older bridges, in particular, need to be evaluated for safety.

7News tagged along on with ODOT engineer Brian Windsor on a typical evaluation of an older bridge, "It's kind of strange to see this kind of a design on a county bridge," he said.  "For some reason they put three of them in this county."  The deck truss design is unusual for the area.

The experts are typically looking for cracks or, more often, rust damage which is one of the major problems in these old bridges.  He and his team have been out in Southwest Jackson County making sure the bridges, there, are safe.  They looked at three today and Windsor says that they are in "...typical county bridge shape.  They've got some problems, nothing that's immediately serious right now."

But this bridge was built in 1930 and it could become a problem in the future.  So, they are mainly looking at the "truss".  The truss is the two long support beams on either side of the bridge.  It's what holds this type of structure up and rust can be quite a concern, especially at the abutment where the truss is buried.  "Sometimes you never know what you are going to find when you get all that dirt," says Windsor.

The bridge Windsor was having a look at didn't seem to have much structural damage, in fact, he said it seemed clean and in really good shape.  Just a bent support on the truss that isn't that serious.  "If you get a compression cord bent out of line, it's more susceptible to buckling," he said.  But overall, he said the bridges are okay.  The main areas of concern are the abutments where there could be hidden rust that could prove to be problematic.

Even though the Windsor's team says the bridges are okay, they are still classified as fracture critical and will have to be checked on regularly.  Since these bridges are county property, it's up to them to make repairs.  ODOT reports their recommendations and it is left in the hands of the county to follow up.