Minnesota disaster brings bridges into focus - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Minnesota disaster brings bridges into focus

August 3, 2007

Sumter County -- That bridge collapse has called into question the safety of bridges around the country. We investigated the condition of Georgia bridges, and it turns out they're in better shape than many other states.

The Federal Highway Administration says 2% of Georgia's bridges are structurally deficient. The FHA has a list of 72 Georgia bridges in the worst condition, and 12 of them are in our area. But the good news is some of the bridges on the list have already been replaced.

In less than 20 minutes more than a dozen semi-trailers crossed this small bridge south of Plains in Sumter County. Concerning since the 50 year old bridge is on the Federal Highway Administration's list of the 72 worst bridges in Georgia.

"If it reaches a low enough rating we would close it,"  says Craig Solomon, works out of the Tifton office of the Georgia Department of Transportation.

There are a lot of things that go into a rating for a bridge and in this case the guardrail could have lowered points for this Sumter County span.

"It could be a guardrail issue it could be some spotting on the deck, it could be the smoothness of the bridge there are a lot of factors that come into it it does not mean the bridge is unsafe," says Solomon.

Twelve south Georgia bridges made the list, In Atkinson County near Pearson two bridges over US-221 and Antioch Church Road, In Echols County east of Howell on 568, In Irwin County southeast of Ocilla on Satilla Road. In Stewart County north of Lumpkin on Mathis Store Road, and in Telfair County southeast of Milan and north of Jacksonville on Highways 319.

"None of the bridges are unsafe, we wouldn't allow traffic on a bridge if it was unsafe," says Solomon.

The Department of Transportation has made a concentrated effort in south Georgia over the last 10 years to replace up to 15 bridges a year. In fact two on the list in Lowndes County on County Line Road have been replaced. The one on Tucker Road is in fair condition.

"Our bridges, that will be funded, we will take care of keeping our bridges updated and structurally sound for the traveling public."

An expensive proposition since depending on its length it can cost two to five million dollars to replace a bridge.

The average age for a bridge in Georgia is 36 years old, but many of the bridges on the Federal Highway Administration's list are 50 or older.

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