How Safe Are Bridges Here In Eastern Kentucky?

By: Jeff Gould Email
By: Jeff Gould Email

We depend on them every day to get us home, or to work, or even just to visit a friend. After this week's bridge collapse in Minneapolis, many are questioning how safe our bridges here in Eastern Kentucky really are.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Transportation studied all of Kentucky's nearly 14,000 bridges, and the results may surprise you. The document from the National Bridge Inventory shows more than 4,000 Kentucky bridges are not up to national standards.

The database reports that more than 1,000 bridges have been rated as "structurally deficient" and nearly 3,000 have been deemed "functionally" obsolete.

One bridge at Woodland Park here in Hazard has been deemed both. But despite what appears to be rusting steel and crumbling gravel, the state highway department still deems this bridge safe to drive on.

"Well, functionally obsolete is a term that we use when a bridge is still structurally sound, but perhaps it doesn't meet modern standards," said H.B. Elkins with the Kentucky Department of Highways.

If a bridge is rated structurally deficient, that means the bridge can no longer carry the weight it was originally designed to carry, but can still be considered safe. Highway department officials say that if a bridge is unsafe, it will be closed.

"We do not want a repeat of what happened in Minnesota here in Kentucky and we're making every effort to make sure that doesn't happen," Elkins said.

Highway department officials say the Woodland Park bridge we mentioned is slated for replacement in about a year, although it is still safe to drive on. Nationwide, more than 70,000 bridges have been rated structurally deficient and engineers estimate repairing them would cost more than $188 billion dollars.

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