How safe are bridges in the Tri-Cities?
After a bridge on Interstate 5 collapsed yesterday evening, we wanted to know what kind of condition the bridges in our area are in right now.
Department of Transportation employees say drivers in the Mid-Columbia should not be worried about driving on the Blue Bridge, the Cable Bridge or the Vaughn Hubbard Bridge, which crosses the Snake River just outside of Burbank.
DOT employees say all three bridges in our area are in good condition.
However, there are some bridge ratings to be aware of.
Right now, the Blue Bridge is rated as Functionally Obsolete, and the Vaughn Hubbard Bridge is rated as Structurally Deficient.
The Cable Bridge is in good condition.
DOT employees say the Blue Bridge received the Functionally Obsolete rating because of the narrow shoulders on the bridge.
Crews also say they are keeping a close eye on the bridge above the Snake River, watching for cracks, and they are looking at making some repairs as well.
But DOT employees say these bridges are still safe.
"Bridges can be listed as Functionally Obsolete and what that really means is maybe the shoulder isn't as wide as the roadway, and then there's some bridges that are rated Structurally Deficient. But our bridges in the Tri-Cities are in good condition. They are getting older. We have a lot of bridges across the state that are getting older, but just because a bridge is listed as Structurally Deficient, doesn't mean that the bridge is ready to fall down" said Don Whitehouse, Department of Transportation.
DOT employees say they have a very aggressive bridge inspection program, with about 45 employees.
They inspect the three bridges in the Tri-Cities every two years - sometimes even doing underwater inspection work.
All three bridges were last inspected last year.