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Report: Obsolete, Structurally Deficient Bridges in Orange County Pose Risk to Motorists

We all rely on bridges in everyday transportation in Florida, whether commuting for work or heading to church or just out for a fun family day. Bridges are not just historical and aesthetically valuable to our skylines – they are integral to modern transportation.

However, there is growing concern that a number of these structures are not actually safe. Not all are built with parts or structural integrity that are entirely sound. Even those that are can degrade and erode over time with exposure to the elements. Some sustain more severe damage in natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

Recently, the Washington Post developed a user-friendly, searchable database using figures from the National Bridge Inventory, breaking down which areas have the highest percentages of structurally deficient bridges that pose the greatest risk to drivers. 

In Orange County, of the 726 total bridges, 89 are functionally obsolete and 1 is structurally deficient. A bridge that is functionally obsolete is one that can’t handle the required traffic needs. It doesn’t indicate a bridge is going to fall, but it does indicate the need for repair. Meanwhile, a structurally deficient bridge is one that has a defect that requires attention.

Even as concerning as those figures are, they aren’t nearly the worst – either in Florida or on a national scale. More than 55,000 bridges across the country are in need of repair and replacement, and some 59,000 bridges are considered structurally deficient.

In Broward County, there are a total of 688 classified bridges out of 695 total (the ones not classified are newer). Of those 688, a total of 101 are deemed functionally obsolete, while 10 are structurally deficient.

In Miami-Dade County, there are 951 classified bridges out of 953 total. Of those 951, a total of 218 are considered functionally obsolete, while 16 are structurally deficient.

This amounts to less than 2 percent of bridges in each county. Of course, any structural or functional concerns ought to be examined closely. However, it should be noted that this is far less than the national average for most counties, which is 9.4 percent of bridges being structurally deficient.

Part of the reason Florida is doing better than other states in this regard is that the primary cause of unstable conditions is age. Most bridges are only designed to last about 50 years before they require some type of major overhaul to prevent collapse. Many of the bridges built in northern states are much older than that. Florida’s infrastructure is, on the whole, a lot newer, with much of the infrastructure built in the 1980s and after. Consider that Disney World in Orlando didn’t even open until 1971. Here in Orange County, much of our infrastructure was built out from there.

If a person is injured due to a bridge collapse or some other element of poor road design or engineering resulting in a car accident, he or she may have numerous avenues of compensation. Some possibilities include:

  • Premises liability;
  • Workers’ compensation;
  • Wrongful death lawsuit.

Workers’ compensation will only apply if the injured/ decedent was on-the-job at the time of the incident. The others are going to depend on the individual circumstances of each case. For example, some structural deficiencies are caused by crashes involving large trucks or other vehicles. In those cases, we might look to hold the driver and/or employer accountable. Poor maintenance of a bridge or road may result in liability by the corresponding city, county or state government agency.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

How many structurally deficient bridges are in your county? Feb. 21, 2017, By Denis Lu and Dan Keating, The Washington Post

More Blog Entries:

Bicyclist Killed in Florida Hit-and-Run Crash, Feb. 21, 2017, Orlando Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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