London Bridge might actually be falling down.
No, this isn’t a nursery rhyme. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), of the 8,154 bridges across the state, 214 are structurally poor. This includes the well-known London Bridge of Lake Havasu City, which has been deemed “functionally obsolete.”
So what does this mean? According to Mark Clark, the maintenance services division manager for the city, it means that the bridge isn’t up to the same safety code that it would be if it was built today.
“It’s not something you would say is inherently unsafe, either from a structural or safety standpoint; it’s doing its job, it’s just not doing its job as well as it would if it was engineered to the newest safety or design standards,” Clark explained to Havasu News.
The culprit behind this bad safety score? Three traffic lanes. The London Bridge was originally made with three traffic lanes, whereas modern standards for a bridge that size only call for two lanes. It also has railings that do not properly protect pedestrians from drivers, which is deemed unsafe by the ADOT.
For now, because the London Bridge is structurally safe, the city will not make any major changes. Since the bridge is seen as a historical artifact, the city is doing what it can to keep the bridge up and running for many years to come.
However, this isn’t the case for the rest of Arizona, as the ADOT predicts that 2,1331 out of the 8,154 bridges still need major repairs, which would cost around $1 billion dollars.
In the meantime, the ADOT has a number of methods for determining if bridges are safe. They can use an electrochemical fatigue crack sensor system, which can detect cracks in bridges as small as 0.01 inches. Engineers can also look at the size and weight of the vehicles crossing every day to determine likely wear and tear, or they could simply compare the bridge’s structure to modern design principles.
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