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Washington State Bridge Collapse Is Reminder Of Dangerous Bridges Nationwide

Tappan Zee Bridge Is 'Structurally Deficient'
Collapsed section of the I-5 bridge in Mt. Vernon, Wash. - May 23, 2013 (credit: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Collapsed section of the I-5 bridge in Mt. Vernon, Wash. – May 23, 2013 (credit: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - An overweight on a bridge that couldn’t handle it proved a disaster overnight in Washington state.

It collapsed, sending three cars into the water. Fortunately, no one died.

But it’s a reminder that there are thousands of bridges just like it, where if one piece falls, the whole bridge does.

Construction attorney Barry Lepatner called attention to this in his book “Too Big To Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure And The Forward.”

18,000 bridges across the country are fracture critical like this one, with no redundancy. The government has labeled many as “structurally deficient,” like the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Should they be closed?

“It’s not a question of should they be closed. It’s a question of are politicians who, today, lack any sense of leadership on the critical nature of this problem and who fail decade after decade to commit the necessary resources to give these bridges the structural support to avoid catastrophes such as happened yesterday in Washington state,” Lepatner told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot.

He said that these bridges can be fixed or replaced cost effectively while putting one to two million out-of-work construction workers back to work for one to two years.

He said it would “bring a sense of confidence to the traveling public that will never exist until they are fixed.”

Construction on a new Tappan Zee Bridge is already happening.

“Five years from now, we’ll breathe a sigh of relief for a bridge that no one should be traveling across today if they listen to any engineer who is aware of it or to Gov. Cuomo’s own top assistant who calls it the ‘hold you breath bridge,'” Lepatner said.

Lapatner refuses to use the current Tappan Zee Bridge.

But he noted that the bridges in New York City are among the safest bridges in the nation.

“That’s because both the Giuliani and the Bloomberg administration have committed well in excess of $5 billion to make our bridges very very safe,” he said.

He noted that the Outerbridge Crossing, Goethals Bridge, and Pulaski Skyway are all going to soon undergo major work.

“Outside of New York City, something like 12 to 13 percent of all the bridges in New York State are in danger,” Lepatner said. “Almost half of all the 600,000 in our nation have long passed their intended lifespan.”
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