Are Our Bridges Any Safer?

A year after Minneapolis bridge collapse, are vulnerable bridges being fixed?

ByABC News
July 31, 2008, 4:14 PM

Aug. 1, 2008 — -- Last Saturday afternoon, Johnny Do was driving to a music festival with his wife and two children when a 1,200-pound chunk of concrete dropped from a bridge in the Minneapolis area and crashed onto the Interstate just feet from the family's minivan.

Do, who saw the concrete crush a car in front of him and smash into hundreds of pieces, was still savoring his good luck as he told ABC affiliate KSTP, "Seconds later, I would [have] hit that piece."

The bridge, located just eight miles from the infamous Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed a year ago today, killing 13 people in the deadliest such disaster in a generation, was inspected last August by state officials,who found it to be deteriorating but safe.

Since last year's fatal collapse, states and counties have spent billions of dollars on inspections and repairs. But a number of the country's most vulnerable bridges have yet to be fixed or replaced, according to an analysis by

"People are talking more about bridge safety," said William Ibbs, a professor of civil engineering at the University of California-Berkeley. The Minneapolis collapse "raised the issue higher on radar screens, but show me the money."

Some of that money is beginning to emerge, with six states spending an extra $8.3 billion for bridge and road spending.

Last week, another $1 billion was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives for bridge work, though President Bush has threatened to veto the expenditure.

But with many of the nation's highly trafficked, aging bridges still in need of updates, the repair process has been too slow, in the eyes of some.

"I still don't see the money coming for repairs and for infrastructure improvements, in general," Ibbs said. "Bridges are continuing to age and there is more traffic, with heavier vehicles on them over time and changing weather patterns, which make for a dangerous freeze-thaw cycle."

Twenty heavily trafficked bridges across the country scored a lower structural integrity rating than the I-35W bridge before its collapse and "may need to be replaced," according to a report last year by ABC News's Brian Ross.