Lowenthal calls for hearings on ôstructurally deficientö bridge labels
Concerned that the current rating system for California's 23,000 bridges is giving people a false impression of unsafe structures, the chair of the state Senate transportation committee said Wednesday he hopes to hold hearings this month to clarify the issue.
“I want to know what is safe and what is not and how we measure it and how we inspect it,” said Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.
Since the Minneapolis bridge collapse last week, California Department of Transportation officials have been inundated with requests concerning the 3,000 bridges in the state that hold a rating of 'structurally deficient.' The federal label, while sounding ominous, does not immediately indicate that a bridge is unfit or unsafe for use. Many criteria other than structural integrity are used to formulate the rating and a bridge may fall into the category because of numerous non-structural problems.
However, Lowenthal did say he was alarmed to learn that the numerous bridges in the state are being used without backup structural support, similar to the collapsed Minneapolis bridge. The backup structures are built into a bridge, but can deteriorate over time, reduce structural redundancy in the design, and potentially lead to complete structural failure if the main structural supports fail.
Earlier this week, Caltrans officials completed emergency inspections of 69 bridges in the state with designs similar to the collapsed Minneapolis bridge. While many of the bridges carry the label 'structurally deficient,' none was to be found in danger of collapsing.
Lowenthal said his hearings would focus on the state bridge inspection procedures, labeling, and how to raise funds to repair bridges that require it.