Wednesday’s collapse of a section of the I-35W bridge over the ‘beginnings’ of the Mississippi River in the American City of Minneapolis has already started ringing the warning bells concerning scores of other bridges in the USA, as well as in other parts of the world. The fact that this bridge had been rated as possibly unsafe as early as 1990 raises doubts about even larger bridges, carrying even more heaver amounts of traffic on a daily basis.
Consider the following as per the possibility of an even more disastrous calamity than on a bridge spanning a much narrower version of what is often referred to affectionately as “The Big Muddy” including bridges which span this majestic river at the cities of St. Louis, Mo., Memphis Tenn., Vicksberg Miss., and finally, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, La. All of these cities have bridges which are more than 50 years old, and most of them carry a significantly greater amount of daily traffic on them than the one at Minneapolis. Notwithstanding, the bridges in New Orleans may have suffered a considerable amount of structural damage in the category 5 Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
These are only a handful of literally hundreds â€“ possibly thousands of bridges in America alone that may actually be on the verge of collapse, due to recently world climate changes and an increase daily traffic, including thousands of filled to capacity semi-trailer trucks who ply these bridges daily, many of them carrying 40 ft “Hi-Cube” marine storage containers filled with more than 58,000 pounds of cargo. Can you imagine what would happen if bridges like the Brooklyn or George Washington Bridge in New York, or the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco were to collapse in a similar manner? This also holds true for the long network of bridges which link the Florida Keys, all the way to the furthest island of Key West?
I’m not going to even go into bridges in other countries, some of which are more than 200 years old. Many span not only wide rivers such as the Rhine, Danube, Nile, Thames, Volga, and other rivers, but also deep and perilous gorges. Israel, though having less of a river network than other aforementioned countries, does have a number of bridges spanning both highways and smaller rivers. These bridges include ones in metro Tel Aviv, some of which carry a considerable amount of traffic daily, including heavy vehicles which may be in excess of legal weight limits. While some bridges are fairly new, such as the ones built for the Ayalon freeway, others like the Namir Road, Ibn Gavirol, and Rokach bridges spanning the Yarkon River carry literally hundreds of thousands of vehicles daily.
Following the disaster in Minneapolis, Ministry of Transport engineers were interviewed on Israeli TV channels, and they admitted that many bridges in Israel, including newer ones, could possibly collapse “under the right circumstances”. One old bridge, the historic steel girder one still in use over the Yarkon River in North Tel Aviv, did collapse partially a number of years back. This bridge, built by the British during Mandatory Palestine days, should have been closed to all but pedestrian and bicycle traffic long ago. Yet, cars still ply its single lane over the heavily polluted Yarkon.
We all still remember the disaster which occurred during the opening ceremony to the Maccabee Games about 6 years ago. Four Australian athletes were killed and many others injured as a result of an improperly constructed bridge which hand been hurriedly built across the Yarkon in order for participating athletes to be able to march into the Ramat Gan Stadium where the opening ceremonies were being held. Could an even more disastrous occurrence happen on a large bridge â€“ this time with scores of vehicles, including large passenger busses?
Indeed it could, and according to the experts, it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when!
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