Are North Carolina's 'structurally deficient' bridges safe?

Are North Carolina's 'structurally deficient' bridges safe?

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by DIANNE GALLAGHER / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @DianneG

WCNC.com

Posted on January 17, 2013 at 12:44 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Nearly 30% of North Carolina's bridges are considered 'structurally deficient' or 'functionally obsolete,' according to the 2012 National Bridge Inventory and a database created by NBC Charlotte's partners at The Charlotte Observer.

North Carolina Department of Transportation Bridge Inspector Garland Haywood said the term 'functionally obsolete' means the environment or traffic has changed since the bridge was built. Haywood explained this usually occurs in areas with population increases.

Haywood said 'structurally deficient' bridges need minor to significant repair or maintenance and some must even be replaced.

"The bridges need some work, but that does not mean they are unsafe to drive on," explained Haywood.

When asked if people were in danger driving over these bridges, Haywood said, "I honestly do not."

Of the 23 'structurally deficient' bridges in Mecklenburg County, only one is listed as "Closed to Traffic." Michael Baker Place bridge, which runs over Briar Creek near Runnymeade Road, is maintained by Charlotte DOT. It shows up in the 2012 database as "closed" but dozens of cars were driving over it Wednesday night.

There is no signage posted indicating that the bridge should be avoided.

People driving over the bridge said no construction had been done in that area for at least two years. NBC Charlotte contacted CDOT about the bridge, however it was after normal business hours. A CDOT representative responded via email to say she could not answer the questions about why the bridge was still open until speaking with one of their bridge inspectors.

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