Evaluating Tennessee Bridge Safety - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Evaluating Tennessee Bridge Safety

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Tennessee Department of Transportation officials discussed bridge inspections in the aftermath of Wednesday's collapse of a Minneapolis bridge that spans the Mississippi River.

Four people have been reported dead and 20 people still missing. Another 60 people are injured.

A similar bridge collapse is highly unlikely in Tennessee, said TDOT officials during a news conference Thursday afternoon in Nashville.

There are more than 19,000 bridges across Tennessee. TDOT officials said the department has spent $1.5 billion since 1990 to make sure those bridges are in good condition.

There are 17 bridge inspection crews that work across the state, inspecting each bridge at least every two years.

TDOT said about four percent of the state's 8,000 highway and state road bridges are what they call "structurally deficient," which means they have some structural problems. TODT said those problems do not compromise the safety of those bridges.

Officials said perhaps the biggest problem TDOT faces in fixing bridges is time.

The average age of a bridge is 38 years old. The bridges face all sorts of wear and tear from the weight of heavy traffic to erosion from weather conditions.

TDOT has placed weight restrictions on 21 bridges across the state. These bridges can only handle so much traffic at one given time.

TDOT officials said that all of the state's open bridges are safe.

Meanwhile, state officials around the country are taking a closer look at their bridges. Missouri has 11 bridges similar to the one that collapsed. They'll be examined first. And in New Jersey, Gov. Jon Corzine said they're going to evaluate the state's 6,400 bridges.

In 1989, a similar disaster took place in Tennessee. A bridge outside of Memphis collapsed, killing eight people. 

Three cars and a tractor trailer plunged into the Hatchie River. Investigators blamed the bridge collapse on erosion and said it was a wake-up call for the state.

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