Bridge Collapse Imminent

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bridge collapse

I received another report today about bridge deficiencies in the United States. Yes, another. Another headline-making report talks about how bad and potentially dangerous many of the bridges in our country are today. A state-by-state analysis of bridges on the verge of collapse and states that have the worst record as the President and Congress continue to debate infrastructure investment. 

Bridge collapse

I see this report from various sources a few times a year for years and quite frankly have no confidence that these are factual reports. 


  • More than one-third (37 percent) of U.S. bridges—nearly 231,000 spans—need repair work. More than 46,000 bridges are rated in poor condition and classified as “structurally deficient.” A total of 81,000 bridges should be replaced.
  • While the number of structurally deficient (SD) bridges declined by 900 compared to 2018, it still would take more than 50 years to repair them all.
  • Motorists drive across these structurally deficient bridges 178 million times a day.
  • Structurally deficient bridges, on average, are nearly 69 years old, compared to 44 years old for non-deficient bridges.
  • One-third of Interstate highway bridges (18,177 spans) have identified repair needs. Click Here to read more on this report.

These reports do not tell the truth nor do they have a basis in enough fact to be accurate, in my opinion.

In fact, our nation’s bridges are in a much worse state of repair than any of these reports even has the capacity to report again, in my opinion.

The current methods used today to conduct the bi-annual NBIS inspections I would describe as primarily manual, subjective, and antiquated. Most inspections are taking place pretty much the same way they were 100 years ago.  Don’t get me wrong, I  am not putting down the way current inspections are conducted, they follow guidelines that were put out by Federal Highways AAshto and followed up with state regulators and the Department of transportation both at a state and district level.  But following guidelines does not mean that the best methods are being used to ensure public safety.  Most of these guidelines are put into place only after a major incident like a bridge collapse by the time they are put into practice they are already outdated.  

Bridge inspections definitely don’t light up any political followings or any public applause like cutting the ribbon on a new multi-billion dollar bridge.  But it is the taxpayer’s dollar being spent to insurance taxpayer safety so shouldn’t those entrusted with those funds be using them in the public’s best interest?  With the state of available technology that can provide much more quantitative data for the same taxpayer dollar, shouldn’t the manual and subjective inspections be minimized? 

So why don’t I think these bridge reports are accurate..

Bridge Deck – Todays Chain Dragging VS BridgeScan®

Construction materials testing

Dragging a chain to listen for changes in sound VS using technology to peer through the Asphalt and locate voids, rebar, water intrusion, delamination, debonding, create budgets and material required for repairs

Cable-Stayed Bridge Inspection Today’s Visual inspection of the Sheathing VS CableScan®
Inspection of sheathing and MRI-like inspection of the interior steel that helps hold up the bridge.

Bridge inspection
Bridge inspections

Blocking traffic and looking at the plastic that surrounds the steel that holds up the bridge vs peering through the sheathing and locating the loss of metallic area inside the steel

Post tension tendon inspection

Post Tension Tendon Inspection- Today’s Visual inspection of the Sheathing VS TendonScan®
Inspection of sheathing and MRI-like inspection of the interior steel that helps hold up the bridge.

Bridge inspection post tensioning

High Mast Light Pole Inspection
To the left current inspection of a pole from the ground. To the right, a robotic pole climber inspects 360 degrees of the pole, seams, luminaries, mast arms, and bulb housings. 

As hard as it is to believe that these manual, subjective inspections are the current inspection methods being utilized, it is your tax dollars that are paying for them.  These inspections are supposed to be about public safety. There is basic common sense lacking in some of the inspection methods that are still being utilized. I’m not sure to what end when for the same taxpayer dollar being spent today an inspection that can provide the proper data to properly budget for repairs exists using available technology.

We know that a bridge is in a state of disrepair when we see the rebar sticking out of the concrete or we can see the ocean through a hole in the deck just like you know you’re having a heart attack when you’re grabbing your chest and falling to the floor but what about all of those people that don’t have any warning signs and just drop dead?  They must not have gone for their checkup or had someone look inside.

Bridges are very large complex structures with many potential points of failure. Would you trust your health to like the way you look in the mirror this morning or would you prefer to have a body scan, X-ray, MRI, or blood work to actually check the components that keep you healthy and assuming they cost the same? 

Wrong way to inspect a high mast light pole

The tools to conduct this type of inspection exist today. I would have much more confidence in those infrastructure reports if technology was used to conduct the inspections.  Quantitative replicable and reliable data.  Data that can be collected without the billions lost in GDP due to lane closures and traffic delays, not to mention the saving of lives from fewer traffic accidents and inspectors working at height.

Once we start utilizing technology to inspect our bridges as the normal course of the inspection, then I will start to believe the reports about their health. 

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Infraspect is a complex bridge inspection, non-destructive testing (NDT), and robotic engineering company. Infraspect utilizes advanced non-destructive testing and robotic technology to produce condition assessment reports that determine the condition and deterioration of today’s infrastructure.

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