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What Other Washington State Bridges Have Issues? What Does Functionally Obsolete Mean?

I-5 Skagit River Bridge after collapse
(Courtesy KNDU-TV KING 5 TV -Seattle Times)

With the collapse of the I-5 Skagit River Bridge that miraculously didn’t kill anyone, many are now asking, what other bridges have issues?

According to a 2011 report from the Washington State Department of Transportation (which includes updated notes from 2012 and 2013),   5% of the bridges in our state are considered to be in poor condition.

We’ve heard so much since Thursday about “Functionally Obsolete”…what does it mean?

The WSDOT has classifications for bridges.  They include:

Structurally Deficient

Structurally deficient means that a bridge requires repair or replacement of a certain component. This may include cracked or spalled concrete, the bridge deck, the support structure, or the entire bridge itself. If the condition is such that it no longer is able to carry its intended traffic loads it may be weight restricted. Being structurally deficient does not imply that the bridge is in danger of collapse or unsafe to the traveling public. 

WSDOT has 135 state owned bridges, including one large span culvert, that are classified as structurally deficient as of Feb 21, 2013. Contract work is in progress or complete on 15 bridges.

Functionally Obsolete

Functional obsolescence is assessed by comparing the existing configuration of each bridge to current standards and demands.

A bridge can be categorized functionally obsolete a number of ways like having substandard lane widths, or narrow shoulders. Another example would be a bridge that doesn’t have enough vertical clearance for large trucks to pass under, causing repeat hits and damage to the bridge.

However, a bridge that is Functionally Obsolete (F.O.) may NOT be in worse shape than a Structurally Deficient bridge (S.D.).    A good example of what would be a F.O. bridge would have been the old two-lane bridge that used to span the Columbia between Kennewick and Pasco.   It was torn down after construction of the Cable Bridge.

What Bridges in Benton and Franklin County are facing issues?  According to the WSDOT, two bridges in Benton County are considered S.D.  They are:

  • The Chandler Canal Bridge on I-82.  The deck is targeted for rehabilitation.
  • The SR 22 Bridge over  I-82 bridge.  Also planned for rehabilitation. Both bridges date back to 1977.

In Franklin County:

  • The Court St. Bridge over Highway 395 has been worked on recently.  No other Franklin County bridges are considered to be issues.

Several bridges in Adams county are also earmarked for some structural improvements.  No bridges were listed in Grant County, and a bridge project in Walla Walla County is listed as complete.   And by the way, the Blue Bridge is doing very well, and sound.

 

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