DOT says our bridges are safe for now

A little more than a month-and-a-half removed from the tragic Minneapolis bridge collapse, various New York officials are still questioning the safety of area spans.
“Shortly after the Minnesota bridge collapse, state officials assured us our bridges were safe, but federal officials indicated that at least three bridges were ‘structurally deficient,’ ” New York Transportation Committee Chair John Liu said at a September 17 hearing. “What’s going on here?”
Liu said the different state and federal ratings were confusing to residents and did not provide them clear enough information on which bridges should have people concerned.
City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn testified the city’s bridges are safe, but changes are being made in the way they are evaluated.
“We have instituted a new program whereby poorly-rated components of poor bridges are inspected every three months,” she said at the hearing.
The New York Department of Transportation (DOT) was quick to reassure drivers that bridges are safe. The DOT oversees numerous crossings in the area including the Queensborough Bridge and the bridges that span roads along Queens highways.
“Our bridges are in good shape,” DOT spokesperson Adam Levine said. He added there are a few bridges that need repairs, but the department knew about these spans before the Minnesota disaster.
Levine said the “structurally deficient” rating means it needs maintenance for its deterioration or that the bridge cannot carry heavy loads, but the bridge is still safe. The “functionally obsolete” means the bridge does not meet current standards for its traffic load. For example, it might have narrow lanes or no shoulder.
After the Minneapolis collapse, the DOT saw an increase in demand for bridge information and created a new website that has detailed information on their bridge inspections. The website is www.nysdot.gov/bridgedata.
Ten thousand people have visited the new web site since its creation in mid-August, Levine said. He added the DOT has also recently displayed the governor’s report on inspections of bridges similar to the one that collapsed in Minnesota. He said most of the 49 deck truss bridges in New York were in good shape, a few had minor problems and needed to be looked at further.
To help bridge repairs, the U.S. Senate last week approved an additional $1 billion in federal funding. New York will receive $100 million to help its 17,000 highway bridges. Twelve percent of state bridges have been classified as structurally deficient and 26 percent as functionally obsolete.
“The additional $100 million in federal funding that this amendment will provide to New York is a well placed investment in strengthening our bridges and infrastructure, and will put our state on the path to meeting this pressing need,” New York Senator Hillary Clinton said in a statement.

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