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:: Barbeque’d Bridge

Back in the 90’s i lived in Virginia. In the span of a couple of years there were two accidents where a loaded gas tanker crashed beneath an overpass. i remember these pretty well because i drove over and under these every day, including that day.

Let me again point that out.

i drove both those sections even after they’d had a full tanker of gasoline burn beneath them. The Virginia Department of Highways inspected the bridge joins and determined that while there was significant heating from the incident (gosh really?) there was no significant structural damage. The sections were cleaned and repainted a few months later and i believe one beam had a re-enforcement plate welded onto it a year later.

These were major roads, by the way. One was half of a six lane overpass, the other was part of a fly-over ramp from Malfunction Junction in Springfield (the latter was eventually removed as part of a general fix-up of that nightmare, but that’s beside the point.) i’ll even note that these were not recently retrofitted to prevent for major earthquake damage.

So why the hell did that ramp in Oakland fail?

Some structural engineer or contracting company gots some ‘splainin’ to do …

Ok, looking at the span that failed, i’m willing to cut a bit of slack, but just barely. Unlike the Braddock Rd overpass that i remember being ‘qued, this was a structure being supported by a single post. More than sufficient for most things like general support or even lateral movement in an earthquake, not so good for things like uneven thermal dynamics. In that situation, it’s not a case of it melting or burning, it’s a case where part of the structure heats more than another and the supports fail. Hmm… that sounds familiar…

Still, the reason i’m not really willing to give a complete break is because support pillar in question is way too small.

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