Wash. bridge collapse puts VDOT on alert

Posted at 7:41 PM, May 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-24 19:41:15-04

CHARLES CITY COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) -- Like something out of an action movie, a bridge collapsed, dumping cars into the river below, in Washington state Thursday evening.

Thomas Lester, who heads the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) bridge inspection program, said the accident in Washington has the agency on alert.

"When something like this happens, we look for details  and we survey our inventory. We see if we have similar structures," Lester explained.

Lester stressed than Virginia doesn't have any of the types of bridges that collapsed on its interstates. However, there are some of those kinds of bridges on some secondary roads.

He also said that Virginia's 21,000 bridges are required to be inspected every two years. He said those inspections are critical and potentially save lives.

An in-depth inspection of the bridge on Route 618 in Charles City found advanced corrosion and deterioration. Those findings alarmed inspectors enough to shut down the road for several months.

"I  think it's a good idea that they shut it down before somebody gets hurt. In the long run, it's good," said Sam Valiani, who owns a convenience store a few miles away from the bridge.

The bridge in Washington State was listed as functionally obsolete.

The Commonwealth has more than 1500 bridges that are classified as structurally deficient. There are more than 3300 bridges classified as functionally obsolete in the state.

"While they aren't quite up to par for bridges that we would be building today from scratch, they're not considered unsafe because we take controls to make sure they don't reach an unsafe condition," said Lester.

Lester said VDOT takes immediate steps to fix the situation if they are upgraded.

In the case of the Charles City bridge on Route 618, Lester said it could cost $1.8 million to repair it and up to six months to complete.