As I watched the TV reports on the collapse of the bridge that crossed the Skagit River in Washington State, a lot of old feelings resurfaced.
As a child I didn’t like bridges. Whenever we drove over one, especially over water, I’d make such a fuss that my father would drive on the inside lane so I wouldn’t have to look down. I don’t remember the first time I crossed the Mackinac Bridge, but it was in the early 1960s, a few years after the bridge opened. It opened in 1957, but I do remember I crossed it sitting on the floor of our car refusing to look out.
More than 600 bridges in the U.S. have collapsed since 1989. In a study issued last week by the advocacy group Transportation for America, titled “The Fix We’re In For,” it was reported that 69,000 bridges are in need of major repairs and many of those repairs have been postponed due to budget shortfalls. That means that nearly 12 percent of the bridges in the United States are “structurally deficient” and require replacement. The study breaks out each state and it shows that in Michigan more than 13 percent, about 1,400 bridges, are structurally deficient and should be repaired or replaced.
The average age of bridges across the country is forty-two years and, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, they were designed with a 50-year lifespan. In our backyard the majority of bridges seem to be in good shape. Of the 15 bridges within the Grand Traverse region, only four seem to have significant problems. The bridge on Front Street (built in 1902,) that crosses the Boardman River, rated structurally deficient; the Cass Road Bridge (built 1930) that crosses the Boardman River rated structurally deficient; the Park Street Bridge (built 1956) that crosses the Boardman River was rated structurally deficient; and the bridge crossing the Acme Creek (built 1928) on US 31 rated functionally obsolete.