This August will be the 3rd anniversary of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis and the 5th anniversary of the New Orleans levee system failure. July brings with it the 19th year mark of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkway collapse. While we now understand how these events occurred, has the civil engineering industry implemented systems to help prevent future disasters? Has our government implemented systems to help?
Cutbacks in civil engineering staff across the US’s civil engineering companies and low bid contract awards from local, state and federal agencies cause some to question whether projects are being completed by the best talent available. As we discussed in a previous blog, some firms that previously hired the best engineering talent have now cut them in favor of less experienced, less expensive engineers. What effect, if any will this have on our future infrastructure?
This week it was reported that the Michigan Department of Transportation has been late on inspections on bridge reports. A state audit determined that about 10% of bridge inspections were overdue, some for 36 months or more. It was further reported that the Federal Highway Administration “ordered the state to complete hundreds of crucial bridge inspections by Dec. 31 or risk losing highway funding, a last-ditch punishment that MDOT says it will avoid.”
Similarly, Stamford, CT advocate news just announced “Hundreds of state bridges rated deficient.” Specifically: of the state’s 5,300 bridges, 10 percent, or 509, are structurally deficient and ranked in poor condition, according to the state Department of Transportation. Fifty-four percent are in fair condition, while 36 percent are in good condition.
The Monitor reporter Jared Janes wrote this week that lower than expected bids from contractors eager for work will allow the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, in charge of the construction, to complete more than 40 additional miles to raise and rehabilitate Rio Grande levees.
Our government has implemented guidelines for engineering designs and mandated structural inspections. Private industry and public agencies struggle with budget cuts. How can we prevent infrastructure disasters with contract monies put on hold and experienced staff being caught in layoffs? What are your thoughts?