Failing Infrastructure Strikes the Beltway

Driving under a structurally deficient bridge took on a whole new meaning, even for those with the Beltway, when concrete fell on a passing vehicle under a bridge awaiting repair in Prince George's County, Md. on Feb. 10. The driver was OK.

2 minute read

February 15, 2015, 5:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

"Pieces of concrete fell onto a woman’s car as she drove under a bridge just off the inner loop of the Capital Beltway in Prince George’s County, authorities said," write Dana Hedgpeth and Ashley Halsey III in The Washington Post.

"(T)he incident drew commentary at a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday," note the reporters. “We are going to have to pay for our infrastructure [repairs] or you are going to have to face blocks of concrete falling on your head,” Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) said at a hearing of the House Transportation Committee."

“I did acknowledge the incident in Maryland last night,” responded U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who has appealed for $478 billion in additional transportation funding. “There’s no excuse for that in America.” [Also see his Feb. 11 testimony to Congress, You-Tube]

The Prince George's County "bridge is on the list of roughly 80 bridges in Maryland that are deemed to be structurally deficient, highway officials said," write Hedgpeth and Halsey III. "Bridges on that list are inspected once a year, compared with the every two year inspections that are required by federal law."

They have lots of company. According to an article written by Halsey III last April, there are 63,000 structurally deficient bridges in the United States. Transportation officials are quick to remind readers that these bridges are considered safe—but that appears to apply more for those driving on them, not under them, as the Prince George's County bridge illustrates, as did the CBS news show Sixty Minutes last November.

Clearly this is not the first bridge located in the Capital region in need of repair. Two years ago Halsey III wrote about the decaying Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, a mere "dozen blocks from the dome of the U.S. Capitol." However, falling concrete from the bridge poses a threat only to the fish in the Anacostia River below.

Hat tip to AASHTO Journal which also reported two additional structurally deficient bridge-related stories on Feb. 13:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 in The Washington Post

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