HOUSTON – This week’s collapse of a bridge in Washington State, once again, has drivers focusing on the safety of the spans they use each day.
According to federal inspection records, the bridge that collapsed over the Skagit River was labeled as “functionally obsolete.”
That means it was not built to today’s standards.
The KHOU 11 News I-Team found it’s not tough to find bridges with similar ratings right here in the Houston area.
Combined, the Interstate 45 bridge over Allen Parkway and Interstate 610 bridge over 18th Street carry more than a quarter-million cars and trucks each day.
What most of those drivers probably don’t know, is that those bridges have been deemed functionally obsolete by federal inspection standards.
“Yikes, that’s pretty scary,” said Ladana Hale, of Spring after learning the news.
“It’s going to fall down,” worried Lucresha, Sheffield of Conroe.
Not exactly, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
In response to questions from the I-Team, the state downplayed the ratings, calling them a means to prioritize repairs, rather than an actual indicator of safety.
But with Thursday’s bridge collapse in Washington on many Houston drivers’ minds, the inspection results were not exactly comforting.
“It kind of scares me because, every now and then, you see big trucks rolling over there,” said Andrew Medina. “Sometimes when you’re on the freeway you hear a little rattle, every now and then, when you go under a bridge.”
Another heavily-traveled bridge in the shadow of downtown is the I-45 Bridge that crosses White Oak Bayou.
Inspectors labeled the bridge “structurally deficient,” based on the condition of the bridge’s supports according to federal records.
“It’s hard to believe, as much work as they’re doing on the roads here, that there are some that haven’t had repairs,” said Johnny Clawson, of Livingston.
But again, TxDOT said that if the bridge wasn’t safe, it would be closed.
It was the same story to the east where inspectors gave the Beltway 8 Bridge over the Houston Ship Channel a sufficiency rating of 66 percent.
The Federal Highway Administration says that a bridge scoring below 50 percent may be considered for replacement.
The Fred Hartman Bridge scored a 75 percent sufficiency rating.
The ten-lane I-610 Bridge over the ship channel scored a 72 percent.
“I know the roads in Houston are bad, but to hear that,” said Sheffield, “When you drive over the bridges now you’re going to be wondering.”
In the eight-county Houston metro area, 112 bridges are labeled “structurally deficient.”
Another 1,610 are considered “functionally obsolete.”