HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Among the many structures at risk from Hurricane Irma are Florida's bridges. Seventeen percent of the 12,000 bridges in Florida are rated, quote, structurally deficient, or functionally obsolete, according to the Federal Highway Administration. USA Today reporter Brett Murphy is covering that part of the story, and joins me now by Skype from Naples, Florida. Brett, first of all, these are not Golden Gate Bridge size bridges we're talking about, but define those terms for me. What makes something functionally obsolete or structurally deficient?
WASHINGTON – A new report says the Brooklyn Bridge and Washington's Arlington Memorial Bridge are among thousands of spans considered structurally deficient. Although the numbers of deficient bridges have declined in recent years, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's analysis of transportation department data shows more than 55,000 bridges in the U.S. have been deemed deficient. ARBTA says deficient bridges are crossed about 185 million times a day. The top 14 most-traveled deficient bridges are located in California. Bridges labeled structurally deficient aren't necessarily in immediate danger of collapse.
With 29 percent of the state's roads rated in poor condition in the August 2016 report of TRIP – a private nonprofit that evaluates transportation with the support of insurers, manufacturers, unions and others concerned about safe transit – New York ranks 37th in road condition in the Best States rankings. It's No. 34 in the percentage of bridges that are structurally deficient, with 11 percent of the state's spans rated poorly in the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Bridge Inventory from 2015.
Since the 1960s the Morandi bridge in Genoa, Italy arced high over railway tracks, nearby buildings and the Polcevera river, stretching across a span of 3,615 feet (0.68 miles) carrying cars and trucks along a major toll road nearly 150 feet above the ground. On Tuesday, a massive segment (estimated at 262-feet long) of the bridge collapsed suddenly, sending steel, concrete, cars and trucks hurtling to the ground in what Italy's Transportation Minister called an "immense tragedy." that left dozens dead. The bridge collapsed in the middle of a extremely wet and rainy day in Genoa. Some eyewitnesses told news agencies that they had seen lightning hit the bridge before the collapse. The exact cause is still unknown, but the New York Times reported that Deputy Transportation minister Edoardo Rixi said the bridge had shown "signs of problems" in the past.
"The Silver Bridge collapse was a national wake-up call and inspired a much more aggressive effort to inspect and maintain bridges across the country," acting Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. "In fact, this tragedy propelled the nation into a new era" of bridge safety. Federal data shows that while nearly one-fourth of the nation's 611,000 bridges were either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in 2015, that's a drop from more than 30 percent in 2000. Most structurally deficient bridges are in rural areas.