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Kristin Murphy, KSL

UDOT completes 705 bridge inspections after Utah earthquake, closing only 1

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL | Updated - Mar. 20, 2020 at 5:35 p.m. | Posted - Mar. 20, 2020 at 4:04 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Transportation expanded its inspection of bridges in the aftermath of Wednesday’s magnitude 5.7 earthquake to include pedestrian and railroad infrastructure, completing a close-up look of all 705 structures by Friday afternoon.

“The good news is we have only had one bridge that we have had to close and divert traffic from,” said UDOT spokesman John Gleason.

The closure is the Fort Union flyover ramp to westbound I-215, which will likely be inspected more thoroughly in the next couple of days.

“We are just not taking any risks with the safety of the bridges,” Gleason said.

He added that 18 bridges have been “yellow-flagged” for further inspection of minimal damage that appears to be cosmetic.

“It is not anything we are concerned about with structural damage,” he said. “We really want to make sure we are going over these bridges with a fine-tooth comb to make sure we are addressing any issues from the earthquake.”

Keith D. Koper, director of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, said there have been an estimated 500 aftershocks since Wednesday morning’s earthquake centered near Magna, and the number is changing minute by minute.

While that number seems dramatic, Koper said the aftershocks are decreasing in strength and will likely continue for weeks.

The good news, however, is the more they continue, the risk decreases.

“It is less and less likely the longer we go that we will have a big damaging aftershock,” Koper said.

Structural engineers were continuing to assess the damage Friday at the Rio Grande Depot, where chunks of plaster fell to the floor. The depot houses the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts and includes an interior walkway to the south where a building is home to the state archives.

Department spokesman Josh Loftin said the building continues to be closed due to concerns about more plaster falling off the walls. The basement houses the state’s collection of artifacts. A couple were toppled in the earthquake, but not damaged, he said.

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Most concerning is the long-held fear that an earthquake could have triggered the automatic sprinkling system, damaging the precious items. That did not happen.

“We have been lucky and we were lucky this time there was not damage to the artifacts,” Loftin said.

The Great Salt Lake State Park Marina also continues to be closed but is expected to reopen sometime next week.

Park officials have been grappling with a pair of gas leaks, a water pipeline that broke and roadway cracks caused by the earthquake.

An American Red Cross evacuation center at Taylorsville High School was scheduled to close Friday evening. Any residents in need of assistance should call 1-800-REDCROSS.

Tina Brown, spokeswoman for the Salt Lake County Division of Emergency Management, said the county is rolling out a damage assessment survey to cities for residents to fill out so officials can get a better grasp on the extent of the earthquake’s impacts.

She added it could be months or even into next year before the county has an exact picture of what buildings suffered damage.

“It is a fluid situation,” she said.

West Valley City, where 49 mobile homes were condemned as uninhabitable, has a grant program that offers assistance up to $1,000, a mobile home repair program that offers one time grant assistance up to $6,000 and home rehabilitation loans of up to $25,000 at low interest.

More information is available on the city’s website.

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