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Mississippi Department of Transportation Says Bridges Safe Despite Being Structurally Deficient

By Paul Boger | Published 21 Nov 2013 08:30pm | comments
Nearly 25 hundred bridges in Mississippi are considered structurally deficient and another 13 hundred are referred to as functionally obsolete. MPB's Paul Boger reports officials at the Mississippi Department of Transportation say those bridges are still safe to cross.
 
Dangling from a crane under Interstate 20 in Jackson, MDOT bridge inspectors are looking for warning signs that the bridge may be unsafe. 
 
Robert Scheeler is with the Mississippi Transportation Commission. He says, depending on the bridge, inspectors look for things like rust, cracks and warping.
 
"Basically, it's depending on what type of bridge it is and how it's constructed." said Scheeler. "Certain areas we know we might have problems with, and that's what we kind of focus our attention on."
 
In Mississippi, one-in-five bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
 
However, officials at MDOT say those bridges are still safe. Nick Altobelli is the state bridge engineer. 
 
"Structurally deficient pretty much just means that a bridge just needs a little bit more maintenance, a little bit more care done to keep it to where it can safely keep traffic up." said Altobelli. "Functionally obsolete is a little bit easier. Some of the bridges may be a little narrow, or the geometry coming up to the bridge may be alittle bit more tighter. In a nutshell, that's what that is."
 
While Altobelli admits a lot maintenance needs to be done, he reassures Mississippians that the Department of Transportation would never allow an unsafe bridge to remain in service.
 
"They're all safe." said Altobelli. "We would never leave a bridge open that we deemed unsafe based on an inspection. Structurally deficient just means, kind of like if you had a car, the older it gets you just need to pay a little bit more attention to the maintenance. There is things you do to a bridge to take care of that.
 
Compared to the rest of the nation, Mississippi is slightly above the national average when it comes to bridge maintenance and preservation
 

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