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Bridge buckling underscores national concern with aging structures

Ohio is one of the busiest states in the country when it comes to the transportation of varied goods across its roads and interstates. Commercial truckers literally log scores of millions of miles hauling cargo through towns and cities, down highways, through tunnels and across bridges, with loads being destined for locations throughout the country.

Given that state of sheer movement and complexity, truck accidents — notably crashes involving big rigs such as 18-wheelers and semi tractor-trailers — are far from uncommon occurrences.

A commercial truck accident is certainly national news, though, when it is attributed as being the underlying cause for bringing an entire bridge down, which is precisely what happened last week in Washington state north of Seattle. That incident is of immediate interest and strong relevancy throughout the country, including in Ohio, owing to the high volume of large-truck traffic that daily transports loads across thousands of bridges.

The Washington incident can be construed as singular because of the large size of the bridge — the steel-and-concrete structure is well over 1,000 feet long and on average transports about 70,000 vehicles each day across the Skagit River — and the fact that a single vehicle mishap could bring a section of it down.

Luckily, no one died in the collapse. In its wake, commentary has emerged that stresses the obsolete and aged transportation infrastructure that marks the status quo for much of the country. The Skagit River bridge was built in the 1950s, as were many thousands of other bridges nationally, including structures in Ohio.

Last week’s incident will undoubtedly serve to escalate the rhetoric and national debate on infrastructure and safety improvement.

Source: USA TODAY, “State of emergency declared around collapsed bridge,” William M. Welch and Doug Stanglin, May 24, 1013