The Bridge Finder for Your Daily Travels

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The most recent article posted on the Operations Channel is titled A Bridge to Everywhere and briefly explores some notable facts and figures concerning our nation’s bridges, as part of our ongoing infrastructure series.

One web link embedded in the article, provided by MSNBC, provides each reader the ability to evaluate the bridge status along any route of car travel in the United States.  This MSNBC web link has been a favorable feature of our bridges article, and some folks that have read the article suggested I bring that link to light in this Blog section as well.

The web link is very user-friendly.  You can enter the starting and ending points of any commute in terms of zip code, town, or street address.  The resulting plan-view map image includes an icon for each bridge crossing along your entered route of travel.  A few limitations of the website are that it will only provide information on bridges that support at least 10,000 vehicle crossings per day (about one sixth of the total U.S. inventory), and a few significant bridge structures seem not to be included at all.  As was mentioned in the article, the bridge status information is updated only through the 2006 inspection cycle.

Even with these caveats, the site is informative and thought-provoking, and it really hits home the concept I mentioned in my first Blog:  Our national infrastructure is really one big facility operation, of which we are all stakeholders.  Sometimes in the business of our daily lives, we lose sight of the fact that not just bridges, but our entire infrastructure, was paid for, is used by, and in many cases was installed by our own families.  I think a big part of the appeal of the MSNBC website is that it literally personalizes your every-day journeys with tailor-made feedback, and highlights our individual links to our national infrastructure.  You pay taxes to support these bridges, you use them daily, and you have a hand in their future, primarily through your voting privileges and your elected officials.

A final note is that the 1967 failure of the bridge across the Ohio River that was mentioned in the article was highlighted in the 2002 movie, The Mothman Prophecies, starring Richard Gere.  Hollywood took some creative licenses with this scene.  The movie shows the bridge accurately failing during evening rush hour.  However, the movie is placed in modern times, and the actual venue used for the movie clip is a bridge in Pennsylvania.  The real cause of the bridge collapse was a small defect in one section of eye-bar used in the bridge’s suspension system that formed a crack and resulted in a brittle failure.  The actual bridge was known as “The Silver Bridge” due to its aluminum paint color. It was built in 1928, with high-strength but minimal redundancy parts.  The Silver Memorial Bridge now spans across the Ohio River into Ohio from Point Pleasant, WV.

Andrew Kimos

Andrew Kimos completed the civil engineering programs at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (B.S. 1987) and the University of Illinois (M.S. 1992) and is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Wisconsin. He served as a design engineer, construction project manager, facilities engineer, and executive leader in the Coast Guard for over 20 years. He worked as a regional airline pilot in the western U.S. before joining the team as Operations Channel Producer.

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