After an overloaded tractor trailer slammed into a portion of the I-5 bridge in Washington State — causing it to collapse into the icy Skagit River — it makes us wonder: how safe are New York’s bridges?
The New York City Department of Transportation owns, operates and maintains 787 bridges and tunnels in the state, with some of the major bridges being the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Ed Koch Queensboro Bridges, according to the DOT website. The busiest bridge — the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge — saw an average of almost a quarter-million crossings daily in 2010.
The oldest bridge in New York City is the High Bridge, which connects Manhattan and the Bronx, spanning the Harlem River. Built in 1848 as an aqueduct to bring water to the city, it is now being remodeled for bicycle and pedestrian use. The oldest bridge open to cars is the Brooklyn Bridge, built in 1948.
Inspection ratings are available to the public and are graded as “functionally obsolete”, “structurally deficient”, “neither” or “blank” (meaning there isn’t data available).
According to the FHWA, “functional obsolescence” refers to the geometry of a bridge not meeting current design standards. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the “functionally obsolete” and “structurally deficient” classifications do not indicate anything of a structural nature. A functionally obsolete bridge may be structurally sound, such as the Brooklyn Bridge.
Information from the FHWA can be found on that website here.