bridge design was the problem

I normally don’t comment on events or issues outside of the Sacramento region, but I just can’t resist commenting on the closure of Interstate 10 in southern California due to a bridge washout and collapse. Many people have used this incident as justification for devoting more money to road maintenance and bridge repair, and many more will. But this was not a maintenance problem, it was a design problem.

Below is a photo, courtesy of AZCentral (The Arizona Republic). It shows the collapsed bridge, the damaged and still closed bridge, and the old highway bridge. Notice that the bridge portion of the old highway spans the entire wash, and is entirely undamaged (I’m not claiming that the old highway is perfect – it has been damaged in other locations, if not by this flood then by other floods). The two new freeway bridges span only a portion of the wash. Caltrans engineers apparently decided that they could funnel the wash into a narrow space by armoring the abutments with rock. They were wrong, and they should have known this was an irresponsible design. Were they trying to save money, or were they so arrogant as to think nature can be pushed around? I don’t know, but clearly there was a mistake, and the mistake was not a lack of maintenance.



Curtis Village to City College bridge starts

Work has started on the bridge that will connect Curtis Village to Sacramento City College over the Union Pacific railroad right-of-way. The bridge supports on the Curtis Village side have been installed. I did not see any signs of work yet on the section over the tracks nor on the west side at the light rail station and campus. The bridge will be usable by bicyclists, though I am not sure whether the design really addresses bicyclists. The paucity of east-west routes over the rail and light rail corridor means that both bicyclists and walkers have rather unpleasant routes to choose from, so this will be a great improvement. The Sutterville Road bridge, though it has sidewalks and even a narrow bike lane, is a very unpleasant place to be due to the high speed traffic and poor visibility.