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May 24, 2013 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Railroad bridge domino collapse in Lampasas County, Texas. (SLYT) No reported injuries, and the bridge dates from 1910, according to the AP. The Infrastructure Report Card, released this week (in which America received a D-), may need a small update to "8,680 of the 52,260 bridges in Texas (16.6%) are considered functionally obsolete."
posted by Erasmouse (80 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
The market will decide which pieces of infrastructure get maintained, I'm afraid.
posted by Renoroc at 5:21 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]




There are bridges here you can drive your car over that date from the 1890's. They're cool old historic structures, and I'd love to see them either restored or replaced by an adjacent modern structure & made into footpaths, but neglect is more the case most of the time. Or when they're replaced, they're razed or left to rot, which is sad, too.

Railroad bridges are private property, though, are they not?
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:22 AM on May 24, 2013


If it hadn't caught (been set on?) fire, it would probably still be sound. It looked like the entire top deck was burning. is that a typical pattern for this kind of structure?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:22 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The railroad was owned by Heart of Texas Railroad, LP. I'm ok with the fact that they let it burn. Too many times our firefighters are used to protect property and die while fighting a fire that was not a threat to people. This has happened several times in Houston, and it's controversial and a real shame.
posted by Houstonian at 5:25 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


For the record, 'functionally obsolete' means that a bridge is safe, but its amenities are not up to current standards. For example, a perfectly sound car bridge without bike paths would be considered 'functionally obsolete'.
posted by Hatashran at 5:27 AM on May 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


i love the smell of burning creosote in the morning... smells like, functional obsolescence.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:31 AM on May 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wooooo!
posted by dabug at 5:32 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am sure there are people who are shocked, shocked to discover not spending money on infrastructure actually has consequences. But I'm guessing they're not on Metafilter.
posted by tommasz at 5:36 AM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


What an odd post to leave out the fact the bridge is on fire before it collapses.

I'm pretty sure a lot of infrastructure will collapse if it burns up.
posted by smackfu at 5:38 AM on May 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


For the record, 'functionally obsolete' means that a bridge is safe, but its amenities are not up to current standards. For example, a perfectly sound car bridge without bike paths would be considered 'functionally obsolete'.

This entire post needs to be redone with 75% more clarity. First of all, that was a bridge fire that happened to end in a collapse. That's a little different than a bridge that collapses when it appears to be in working order as implied here.

Second, you are right about obsolescence, but:
In 2012, one in nine, or just below 11%, of the nation’s bridges were classified as structurally deficient. (Bridges that require significant maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement. These bridges must be inspected at least every year since critical load-carrying elements were found to be in poor condition due to deterioration or damage.)
And that's for a C+ in this category. America received a D+ overall according to the link, not a D-. Either one is a terrible grade, though. There's no reason we shouldn't be getting an A+ when we've got millionaire CEOs paying no more tax than the middle class.
posted by DU at 5:39 AM on May 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


If it hadn't caught (been set on?) fire, it would probably still be sound. It looked like the entire top deck was burning. is that a typical pattern for this kind of structure?

Timber bridges of this time period were treated with creosote. It's harder to set on fire than you'd think, but once it does go up, it really, really goes up.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:40 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was a thing of beauty. I'm glad that the firefighters stood back and let it collapse and no one's life was risked over an old bridge.

There is no reason to assume that the bridge was obsolete. Wood construction is perfectly fine and can last for a hundred years. Unless something sets it on fire which would appear to be pretty clearly the cause of this spectacular collapse.
posted by three blind mice at 5:41 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]




I was just playing with the tool on this link that lets you search for bridges by city. I discovered that one of the bridges I drive over every day on my way to and from worked is structurally deficient.
posted by mareli at 5:42 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I think that bridge was on fire. Yes, I think so. Might have contributed to its failure, too.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:42 AM on May 24, 2013


is that a typical pattern for this kind of structure?

I'm guessing a tanker car was perforated and something flammable leaked out as the train crossed the bridge and then the brakes or something set it ablaze. The piles are also coated with creosote and you don't see them ablaze.
posted by three blind mice at 5:44 AM on May 24, 2013


I wasn't implying in the post that there was anything initially wrong with the bridge (before it caught fire that is). Just that it needs NOW to be maybe fixed up a bit. Last time I attempt a gag in a post!
posted by Erasmouse at 5:47 AM on May 24, 2013


Also: Bridge Collapse in Wash State

Another one that was categorized functionally obsolete. Which is kind of freaky because it's I-5, which is a major international highway, and something like that shouldn't just collapse, especially since it wasn't even on fire at the time.
posted by rtha at 5:49 AM on May 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


rtha: "Another one that was categorized functionally obsolete. Which is kind of freaky because it's I-5, which is a major international highway, and something like that shouldn't just collapse, especially since it wasn't even on fire at the time."

According to reports I've read, the I5 bridge collapse was because an oversized truck hit a support beam. Which, yeah, ideally a bridge should be able to withstand a hit like that if it's engineered & maintained correctly, but the bridge didn't "just collapse" on its own.
posted by specialagentwebb at 5:52 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


it’s hardly surprising that an engineering group is in favor of trillions in additional spending on civil-engineering projects.

True, but they are not alone. (Full disclosure: my wife happens to work at ULI)
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:53 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It can't have just been the fire, given the temperatures that sort of collapse would require and the speed with which it came down. Why has there never been a documented case of a mile long timber trestle bridge catching fire and collapsing like this on YouTube until now?
posted by Flashman at 5:58 AM on May 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


...it’s hardly surprising that an engineering group is in favor of trillions in additional spending on civil-engineering projects.

Yeah, when you consider the risk of having too many high-quality bridges it really makes you think. We should instead look for win-win scenarios like throwing money at defense contractors to make non-working solutions to non-existent problems in faked-up wars.
posted by DU at 5:59 AM on May 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


Also: Bridge Collapse in Wash State

Another one that was categorized functionally obsolete.


An oversized truck hit a span - it just wasn't built for increases in truck sizes.
posted by Artw at 5:59 AM on May 24, 2013


... the temperatures that sort of collapse would require...

What?
posted by DU at 6:00 AM on May 24, 2013


For the records I am against bridges on the road I was going to take at the weekend collapsing. :-S
posted by Artw at 6:01 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Functionally obsolete? The AP article said that it was still used to haul freight. Not anymore.
posted by Melismata at 6:03 AM on May 24, 2013


D+ ? You rock, America. Did they do the UK? Man we have some seriously old stuff here. (And I bet you said it in a cockney accent.)
posted by marienbad at 6:06 AM on May 24, 2013


What?

Flashman probably should have ended with "Wake Up Sheeple!" but sometimes over-extending the joke ruins it.
posted by muddgirl at 6:07 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stonehenge is structurally sufficient for it's purpose. I understand the Washington State one is too.
posted by Artw at 6:15 AM on May 24, 2013


Timber bridges of this time period were treated with creosote.

Do you mean this present one, because I wasn't aware that creosote treatment was a past-tense thing?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:18 AM on May 24, 2013


I am sure there are people who are shocked, shocked to discover not spending money on infrastructure actually has consequences.

YOU CAN'T CUT BACK ON FUNDING! YOU WILL REGRET THIS!
posted by backseatpilot at 6:33 AM on May 24, 2013 [6 favorites]






YOU CAN'T CUT BACK ON FUNDING! YOU WILL REGRET THIS!

I don't drive on that bridge! Why should my hard-earned tax dollars go to fixing SOMEBODY ELSE'S bridge??

/wharblgargblebagger
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:42 AM on May 24, 2013


The bridge in Washington is like 15 years old and in the pictures you can already see lots of rust patches.

And this is on I-5 between Seattle and Vancouver BC. I can understand bridges in rural communities on county roads being poorly constructed and maintained but on the Interstate Highway system?
posted by vuron at 6:45 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The bridge in Washington is like 15 years old and in the pictures you can already see lots of rust patches.

According to the CNN article anyway, it was built in 1955, which I would generally believe, because we're not making steel truss superstructure bridges like that anymore, for things like river crossings. If it were made 15 years ago, it would likely be the pre-fab concrete girders.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:52 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


We also have far, far too much infrastructure for high-speed automobile transportation.

My home town of 20,000 had (according to Google Maps) 2 large cloverleaf interchanges and 5 highway overpasses. Each overpass would be considered a "bridge" and each cloverleaf would probably be considered several more (given all the crossings with street traffic). All this infrastructure just so some cars can go 70 mph through the town. And we have to maintain it indefinitely.
posted by Ghost Mode at 6:56 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]




in the pictures you can already see lots of rust patches

Incidentally, it's not surface rust you need to worry about on a structure, it's the rust you can't see. Metal oxides can be pretty tough and often work to protect the material underneath (and are thusly common ingredients for paints - not just for pigment properties). Rusty rebar hidden inside concrete is a much more worrisome situation.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:01 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


From reading past reports, you’d get the impression that it’s a miracle the United States is even a functioning country.


You also might get that impression just from walking around a large city, or driving through the midwest.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:02 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The market will decide which pieces of infrastructure get maintained, I'm afraid.

Probably starting with those big iron gates at the entrance of certain neighborhoods.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:06 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


If it collapses after being set on fire, it's obsolete? In that case, a great many things are now pretty damn obsolete.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:12 AM on May 24, 2013


YOU CAN'T CUT BACK ON FUNDING! YOU WILL REGRET THIS!

This pdf from the Finance Commission says that "In fact, the average American now pays $269 dollars annually in gasoline and diesel taxes."

"There have been no major changes to federal gasoline and diesel tax rates since the rates were increased to 18.4 and 24.4 cents per gallon respectively in 1997. The current federal transportation bill, entitled the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Act: A Legacy for Users” (SAFETEA-LU), was signed by President George W. Bush in 2005."

It would seem the taxpayer has been paying these taxes pretty well and the problem is that the money seems to end up spent on something other than roads and bridges. Cutting back on the something other than roads and bridges is never, ever possible so the roads suffer and Democrats wonder and scratch their heads why people are not happy to pay higher fuel taxes to fix them.

"These egregious diversions of funds away from roads to “pork barrel” projects prove that the Highway Trust Fund does not protect gasoline tax dollars. With Congress in charge of the trust fund, ribbon-cutting ceremonies and photo opportunities trump routine highway maintenance."
posted by three blind mice at 7:16 AM on May 24, 2013


Timber bridges of this time period were treated with creosote. It's harder to set on fire than you'd think, but once it does go up, it really, really goes up.

piles of old creosote soaked ties by the tracks regularly get ignited in the summer here when things dry out and the trains start generating big sparks. (no, it's not teenagers)
posted by ennui.bz at 7:16 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


in other non collapse but fucked up transportation news, there are fewer trains running on the Philly el because SEPTA is running short of train engineers. SEPTA, you had ONE job
posted by angrycat at 7:17 AM on May 24, 2013


A truck hitting a span should never be sufficient to bring down a major interstate highway bridge unless that bridge is made of puff pastry.
posted by normy at 7:23 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Because of a shortage of qualified workers, the complex nature of rush-hour scheduling, and SEPTA's desire to limit costs for employee benefits, all engineers and conductors work overtime every week and are paid accordingly.
Gee, that sure sounds sustainable.
posted by smackfu at 7:23 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Another one that was categorized functionally obsolete. Which is kind of freaky because it's I-5, which is a major international highway, and something like that shouldn't just collapse, especially since it wasn't even on fire at the time."

You mean the front didn't fall off?
posted by Blasdelb at 7:24 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let's talk about "functionally obsolete".

After the Silver Bridge collapse, the federal government realized that they had no idea how many bridges were in the US, and what shape they were in. They set up NBI inspections, and all bridges more than 20 feet in America are required to be inspected every 2 years (I believe). NBI holds information on a couple hundred elements on the bridge, and ultimately rates the bridge on a scale of 0-9. Anything 4 or lower is considered "structurally deficient"; usually because of various elements being in poor condition (rust, cracks, erosion, etc). "Functionally obsolete" is more an indication of bad or old design; if the bridge was built today, it would not meet current design standards. Maybe it wasn't built to handle vehicles traveling at the current standard speed, or maybe it's not rated to carry today's average truck weight, or its shoulders aren't wide enough. Structurally deficient bridges need to be repaired or replaced, as they are becoming unsafe. Functionally obsolete bridges just need to be replaced with better-designed bridges. As the name indicates, they are functional, but they are also obsolete.
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:33 AM on May 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


A truck hitting a span should never be sufficient to bring down a major interstate highway bridge unless that bridge is made of puff pastry.

I'm sure it takes some bad luck too. Like there's all the talk of deficient bridges, but if the beam that the truck hit had just come down, I'm sure the bridge would have stayed up. Instead it looks like that beam must have dislodged the side members, leaving no support at the top of the bridge, and it just folded in two.
posted by smackfu at 7:34 AM on May 24, 2013


From reading past reports, you’d get the impression that it’s a miracle the United States is even a functioning country.

You also might get that impression just from walking around a large city, or driving through the midwest.


Yeah, have you ever driven through the east part of New Mexico or West Texas? I lived in Indiana for a good chunk of my life and never, with the exception of the single time I've been in Gary, IN, seen shittier towns with less friendly people. Scenery is sure beautiful but most one-street towns in Indiana at least have most of the road there. Driving through Claude, TX was like playing a bullet hell but with my car's alignment on the line.
posted by dubusadus at 7:35 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: ... it’s worth noting that the ASCE always gives U.S. infrastructure poor grades. From reading past reports, you’d get the impression that it’s a miracle the United States is even a functioning country. And it’s hardly surprising that an engineering group is in favor of trillions in additional spending on civil-engineering projects.
For this to be a relevant criticism, it would also have to follow that the nation's bridges are proving themselves functionally safe despite these suspiciously self-interested poor grades.

Since we have failing bridges... your premise fails. No (actively used) bridge in the US should ever fail, short of cataclysmic events (exceptionally powerful hurricane, earthquake, or direct attack, for instance).
posted by IAmBroom at 7:47 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


A truck hitting a span should never be sufficient to bring down a major interstate highway bridge unless that bridge is made of puff pastry.

You know, just throwing that assertion out there doesn't really do much good in terms of understanding anything at all. Is this a technical argument? Is this a standard of bridge design now? Was this a standard part of evaluating designs in 1955? Are you trying to imply the bridge was otherwise damaged, or the design was insufficient? Is this a moral argument? I'm seriously interested in what went on with this structure, and though I suspect we won't get real answers until the NTSB or the DOT issues a report, having some actual information about what standards bridges are designed to would be useful.

I mean, you might as well say "Bridges should never fall down" or "Airplanes should never crash". We'd learn about as much from that.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:47 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seattle gets the additional fun of seeing if the new tunnel will be a financial disaster before or after the viaduct collapses causing a literal disaster.
posted by Artw at 7:49 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The challenge of preventive maintenance and upkeep is the huge delay between cause and effect. A safety officer I knew at a chemical plant likened the maintenance schedule to an ordinance disposal program: there are thousands of ticking time bombs out there with readouts ranging from 6 months to over 10 years, and if you don't start methodically diffusing them now, you won't be able to get to all of them in time.

Stop all maintenance this year, and it might take decades for the cumulative neglect to manifest in a failure. Meanwhile the person who made the decision to cut maintenance is a hero for removing millions from the budget. He takes part of the savings as a bonus for himself and leverages the experience into a more prestigious role elsewhere, far away and insulated from the effects of his decision. Then, the unlucky person who inherits the mess is faced with the impossible task of bringing all scheduled maintenance up to date without the budget or resources to cover the entire domain fast enough.

I doubt that most infrastructure has even been inspected on a regular basis. But sacrificing long term security for short term gain? Hell, that's practically the American Way; don't hold your breath waiting for that approach to change.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:00 AM on May 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Metal oxides can be pretty tough and often work to protect the material underneath (and are thusly common ingredients for paints - not just for pigment properties).
That depends on the rust *staying* on the metal underneath, no? That works for paint where the oxides are mixed into binders, and for some metals (aluminum pretty much instantly forms an ultra-thin coat of aluminum oxide on any exposed surface), but iron and steel are typically a horrible exception: the rust tries to expand as it oxidizes, which stresses its interface with the metal underneath, which causes it to spall off easily, which exposes more fresh surface to turn to rust and repeat the cycle.

Disclaimer: this was covered in a materials science class that some horrible person scheduled for 8 am, and so my retention of that material may be questionable.
posted by roystgnr at 8:19 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


roystgnr: not to defend the disgusting practice of holding class at that hour, but that's pretty much right on!
posted by 7segment at 8:23 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The railroad was owned by Heart of Texas Railroad, LP. I'm ok with the fact that they let it burn. Too many times our firefighters are used to protect property and die while fighting a fire that was not a threat to people. This has happened several times in Houston, and it's controversial and a real shame.

Yeah, I'm sure you would be very understanding if the FD just showed up and watched your house burn to the ground as long as no human life was threatened.
posted by sideshow at 8:30 AM on May 24, 2013


Even ferris-oxide is a passivation layer, it's when you get hydroxides from impurities in the iron or compounds in the water (acids, sulfur, salts) that cause the serious corrosion. That's why often way more economical to let a bridge rust over than scrape (exposing a fresh iron layer) and repaint. Point is though, that a rusty-looking exposed beam bridge may be way more sound than a happy looking non-rusty poured concrete one.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:41 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm sure you would be very understanding if the FD just showed up and watched your house burn to the ground as long as no human life was threatened.

If it was already a total loss, would you rather they risk their lives for nothing?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:42 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Driving through Claude, TX was like playing a bullet hell but with my car's alignment on the line.

Why would someone replicate the Cross-Bronx Expressway in Texas?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:43 AM on May 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


If it was already a total loss, would you rather they risk their lives for nothing?

I would amend that to, if it's already a total loss and it's not going to catch anything else on fire, why risk firefighter lives?

A house is pretty different from a bridge. It's a strange comparison.
posted by muddgirl at 8:48 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure you would be very understanding if the FD just showed up and watched your house burn to the ground as long as no human life was threatened.

I would be very happy about that decision. A friend of mine owned a business that caught fire in the middle of the night. The building stood by itself in an empty parking lot, and no people were inside as the business had been closed for hours. The Houston fire department has a mandate that they must try to save the building, and so they tried.

The building collapsed with two firefighters trapped inside. One died, leaving behind her small child and husband. Another suffered debilitating damage to his lungs and was permanently disabled. My friend who owned the building was devastated by the loss of life, and angered that it happened just to save an empty building. I think he's right. I'd rather my house burn down than have people die. Businesses and homes are not worth a loss of life.
posted by Houstonian at 8:50 AM on May 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


I recall that in the 1970's New York City had a terrible fiscal problem. They had to slash bridge maintenance. Joints were not greased, steel was not painted, and cracked concrete was not patched.

Then, when then 80's came, and the economy started to boom, the bridges were not ready. Steel rusted through, concrete buckled, and bridges were closed or restricted. Maintenance that would have costed $10MM would have prevented failures that cost $100MM to fix.

Have the lessons been learned?
posted by Midnight Skulker at 9:00 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


U.S. infrastructure spending has plummeted since 2008
States and local governments are the biggest part of the story here. They’ve historically provided the vast majority of spending for roads, highways and bridges, and they’ve been pulling back on spending since 2008 as a result of the economic downturn and requirements to balance their budgets. California’s transportation spending declined by 31 percent from 2007 to 2009, for instance. Texas’s fell by 8 percent.

At the same time, Congress hasn’t filled in the gap. There was a one-time $46 billion infusion of transportation spending in the stimulus bill. But that wasn’t enough to offset the drop at the state and local level. Meanwhile, the most recent highway bill out of Congress kept federal spending at current levels rather than increasing it.

The big question is whether Congress should be spending more — and if so, how much? We’ve seen various reports arguing that America’s infrastructure is aging and in dire need of an upgrade. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country’s bridges a C+ in its 2013 report card. These estimates don’t always take a full account of costs and benefits of increased spending, although the I-5 bridge collapse will presumably give these groups further ammo.

Another consideration, meanwhile, is that Congress can borrow money for remarkably low rates right now. And experts say it’s typically cheaper to fix roads and bridges early on rather than wait until they get truly decrepit. That suggests now could be an apt time to invest in repairs, rather than putting them off until later.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:29 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


It would seem the taxpayer has been paying these taxes pretty well and the problem is that the money seems to end up spent on something other than roads and bridges. Cutting back on the something other than roads and bridges is never, ever possible so the roads suffer and Democrats wonder and scratch their heads why people are not happy to pay higher fuel taxes to fix them.

Boy, so many problems here.
1). The mere act of creating a tax to fund something doesn't automatically guarantee a sufficient revenue source to fund it. In fact, gasoline taxes and other user fees have never paid the full cost of roads. Currently, they pay less than 60% of the cost of roads; I went through this in a comment about a year ago. And that's with the existing road spending patterns, which have been deferring maintenance.
2). The fuel tax has been a constant dollar value on the price of gasoline since 1997. Yes, the amount of gasoline consumed has gone up, but not as much as you would think, since the vehicle fleet has gotten more efficient. (Net user fee revenue has been flat 2000-2007). And this increasing revenue source does actually need to build new roads, since this increase comes from an increased population (needing more roads, causing more congestion).
3). Meanwhile, construction costs, using the ENR Construction Cost Index, have gone up 68% since then. Steel is a global commodity, and China in particular has really massively increased demand. Concrete is incredibly energy-intensive to produce, so as energy costs have skyrocketed, so has concrete. Asphalt is made from literal oil, so as the price of a barrel of oil goes up, so does asphalt.
4). Going forward, we may been in a phase of reduced travel per capita, which means that this revenue source will decline further. Vehicle miles travelled have been decreasing on both a per-capita and absolute basis for about eight years now. But obviously, the maintenance needs are the same.

So an insufficient tax that never paid the full cost of a program that was already deferring maintenance is now facing both increased costs and reduced revenues. That seems like a non-viable status quo.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:01 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The bridge in Washington is like 15 years old and in the pictures you can already see lots of rust patches.

That bridge is in my backyard. One of the local engineers was saying that everyone thinks it's all rusted out from the photos, but that's not rust, it's primer (paint) that was revealed when the top coat of paint cracked and peeled off from the twisting and stress of the failure.
posted by xedrik at 10:05 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also: Bridge Collapse in Wash State

Another one that was categorized functionally obsolete.


You mean Washington State, right?

A truck hitting a span should never be sufficient to bring down a major interstate highway bridge unless that bridge is made of puff pastry.

In Washington State, "puff pastry" is known as (Tim) "Eymancrete." It's what the future is made of. It's a 50/50 admixture of Libertarianism and bullshit.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:58 AM on May 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was also going to bring up Eyman in the context of the Washington bridge collapse. He's been working on "starve the beast" style cuts since the late 90s, with a specific focus on transportation spending. (He's from the Eastern half of the state, which is open and agricultural and doesn't have as many bridges, ferries, etc. as the Western half, which is mountainous and wet.)
posted by hattifattener at 11:59 AM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure you would be very understanding if the FD just showed up and watched your house burn to the ground as long as no human life was threatened.

The role of a fire department is not typically to save the property that is on fire. It is to save the others that surround it. Otherwise they wouldn't hose your house down with thousands of gallons of high pressure water destroying everything that isn't even on fire yet.
posted by srboisvert at 12:48 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, he makes a lot of money as a professional anti-tax initiative demagogue. Thanks for linking to horsesass.org, hattifattener. Yes, we almost got to vote on an initiative to legally declare Tim a horse's ass.

Except that wouldn't have been a legal use of the initiative process (of course, most of Eyman's initiatives are also ultimately found to not meet our state's constitutional requirements, either - which is a good thing - but only after the state bears the cost of both an election and a lawsuit).

Grrrr.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:49 PM on May 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you think in terms of the number of people that use those long, long rounds that nonetheless need to be maintained then Eymanland is super-subsidized.

But it's like OK disaster relief - republicans all want their subsidies AND a reduction in tax, with fucking over everyone else being the way to make that work.
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on May 24, 2013


That's a feature.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:28 PM on May 24, 2013


Wow, I was not expecting to get a top comment on that video.
posted by mkb at 5:52 PM on May 24, 2013



A truck hitting a span should never be sufficient to bring down a major interstate highway bridge unless that bridge is made of puff pastry.

If the span wasn't necessary, it wouldn't be there.
posted by gjc at 10:02 PM on May 24, 2013


A truck hitting a span should never be sufficient to bring down a major interstate highway bridge

In one sense, yes, but in another sense, many bridge designs in use have certain weaknesses. I suspect this is one that's going to get a lot of scrutiny. What seems to have happened is that the truss catastrophically collapsed because the oversized load was tall enough to hit the arch across the top of the end of each truss segment. This truss holds up not just itself, of course, but the roadway and the vehicles on top of it. The damaged arch pulled away -- probably out and away from the truss, and it ended up being as effective as using a pinky to kick away a single, essential card in a house of cards, or a jenga block if you prefer, leaving the remainder unstable.

Was this a safe design when built? Probably. It stood for half a century, after all. The issue of why it collapsed is going to hinge on several factors:
* Was the oversized load properly permitted? Were state inspectors at a weight station lax? What about the pilot car's responsibility?
* Was the state permit process sufficient to note the size of this particular load? Were state records clear on the clearance of the bridge?
* Was the design itself safe? Was there a weak point? Was the design completed to engineering specifications (e.g. the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse was an on-site change)? Were there maintenance or inspection issues?

Any, or even many, of these could factor into this collapse. Obviously we don't want bridges just collapsing when dinged by an oversize load, but any bridge and any design is going to have its limitations. One thing I never realized until maybe a decade ago was just how individually complex each bridge design can be, and how often a new bridge will be using an innovative technique, whether the way the concrete is cured, how the steel is assembled, what sorts of cables, and so forth. Essentially every major bridge is a unique use case and needs to be evaluated in detail.

There are reasons the Interstate highways use a lot of basic span designs on viaducts and flyovers -- it's proven. But you often can't do the same for a river crossing because you can't control the footings, or the span length, or something else.
posted by dhartung at 4:33 AM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]




If the span wasn't necessary, it wouldn't be there.

There is such a thing as "engineering margin". A structure like a bridge (lasts a long time, is routinely abused, kills people when it fails) is going to have plenty of it. It's perfectly plausible that beam X is necessary so that the bridge won't collapse if beam Y is removed and vice versa.
posted by hattifattener at 1:15 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's also a big difference between removing a member in a engineering simulation program by clicking Delete, and removing it by running a 60 mph truck into it.
posted by smackfu at 5:45 AM on May 28, 2013


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