Trusting the Trusses
Living and working in Cedar Key, Richard Anderson drives over bridges everyday. Thursday, he made 16 trips over the four bridges connecting the island community. He said the only bridge that has ever given him any anxiety in all of Florida crosses the Escambia Bay in the Northwest.
"That one there made me a little nervous," he recalled. "It's just those metal grate bridges. Doing 70 miles-an-hour, you hit that metal grate, it makes you a little skittish."
According to the Florida Department of Transportion's Charles Baldwin, even after the tragedy in Minneapolis, the District Two headquarters received zero calls from people concerned about their personal safety along Florida bridges.
"Hopefully, it's because the public has confidence in what we're doing as far as maintaining the system," he said.
Out of the 1,172 bridges in North Central and Northeast Florida, seven state and 73 local - city and county - bridges have been rated as structurally deficient, but Baldwin said that designation does not mean they are dangerous.
"If we remove that designation, even though there's a repair in place, they would tend to fall out of the replacement program," he explained. "We don't want that to occur, because then people may lose sight of the fact that they ultimately need to be replaced."
So despite being scheduled for replacement, structurally deficient bridges have received the necessary repairs to keep them safe. Otherwise, D.O.T. engineers said they would be closed immediately to all traffic; D.O.T. allots at least $8 million per year for bridge repairs and even more when a bridge is scheduled for replacement. Engineers guaranteed Florida bridges are inspected at a minimum once every other year and every open bridge is currently "safe."
"With our inspection process, we're confident that our bridges are in very good shape, not only in our district, but the State of Florida," D.O.T.'s Keith Campbell assured.
Campbell said he was very surprised by what happened in Minneapolis and factors such as weather and environment, which are very different in Minnesota compared to Florida, could be to blame. Also, the Minneapolis bridge had a unique design; there are no steel bridges in Florida constructed with the trusses and support system under the roadway.
After the rain, Anderson said he had bigger worries than Florida's bridges, he hopes he can get his car out of a flooded parking lot.
"That's more of a scare than the bridges," he joked. "No, the bridges here are sound. They're fine."
By Ted Latiak, WCJB TV20 News.
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