Arizona transportation officials have started reviewing the safety records of all state bridges following the collapse of a bridge in Minneapolis Wednesday that injured dozens of people and killed at least seven.
On Thursday, Gov. Janet Napolitano ordered the inspection of the 4,720 bridges under state control despite already having received high safety marks from American Society of Civil Engineers.
“While there is comfort in knowing we have an excellent assessment right now, I want to make the extra effort to ensure that our freeway bridges are safe,” the governor stated in a press release.
A report is expected to be completed by September 7, according to the governor’s office. The governor ordered the Arizona Department of Transportation to focus specifically on the state’s five steel-truss bridges, which are similar to one that failed in Minnesota. Those bridges are in rural areas outside Maricopa County.
She also ordered transportation official to focus on high-traffic spots in the state’s major urban areas. Arizona has 6,984 bridges, of which 5 percent, or 384, were rated structurally deficient or obsolete in 2006.
The structurally deficient bridges have cracks that are monitored periodically but are not unsafe to traffic, ADOT spokesman Doug Nintzel said. In most cases, the bridges deemed obsolete carry more traffic than for which they were originally designed.
ADOT expects few problems with its bridges because of the state’s dry climate and the modern engineering that went into the relatively new highway system. The bridges were designed to last an average of 75 to 100 years, Nintzel said.
Matt Burdick, a spokesman for ADOT, said any decisions on whether to physically inspect bridges would follow a comprehensive review of the safety records.
He said state bridges are inspected every two years. Right now, there are eight engineers dedicated to reviewing bridges. However, the state Legislature approved funding this year for another four inspectors.
“It makes sense to me that if it was done last week we’re not going to go out and do the same microscopic inspection again,” said Jeanine L’Ecuyer, a spokeswoman for the governor.
The state spent $20 million last year on “bridge preservation,” including both inspection and routine maintenance, according to transportation officials.
The state also will work with cities and counties to ensure the safety of the nearly 2,500 bridges not under state authority, Burdick said.
There are 99 bridges under Maricopa County’s authority, said Roger Ball, a spokesman for Maricopa County Department of Transportation. Like state bridges, they are inspected every two years.
Tribune reporter Garin Groff and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.