Flaking concrete brings safety of bridges into question

6 photos
Save Story

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY -- An overpass so worn it started crumbling concrete became a hazard to traffic below Monday; that forced the closure of Parley's Way underneath the Foothill Drive overpass.

When the rocks began crumbling, UDOT had no choice but to close the road. Crews worked on the bridge and reopened the road shortly after, but is it safe? And what about other Utah bridges?

UDOT says the overpass is safe and that the problem Monday morning was simply cosmetic. But it still begs the question we asked UDOT engineers: How do you keep bridges from going bad?

Crumbling concrete doesn't mean the bridge is bad. In fact, UDOT says it's actually quite normal.

**Utah Bridges**
• 2,863 state and locally owned bridges - 1,837 state owned - 1,026 locally owned

• 147 (5.1%) structurally deficient bridges (less than or equal to 4 on a scale from 0-9)

  • 57 state owned (3.1%)
  • 90 locally owned (8.8%)

Structurally deficient: Not unsafe, but must have limits for speed and weight and are approaching the condition where replacement or rehabilitation will be necessary.

UDOT spokesman Adan Carrillo said, "Because of the snow and heavy rains, and just moisture itself, it's been seeping through over the years, and as that happens, it just expands the concrete, and it causes it to flake."

Every bridge in the state gets inspected every two years. At that time, inspectors give it a rating, zero being the worst, nine being the best. The overpass that was the focus of Monday's repairs got at least a five when engineers inspected it last fall, meaning it probably won't need any structural work for another 10 years.

Rukhsana Lindsey, director of Bridge and Research for UDOT, said, "We try and do a lot of preservation and little maintenance, routine maintenance, to keep the bridge from going into worse condition where we have to replace it."

When a bridge gets a four rating or less, UDOT starts securing funding to replace it, though, they say it still has anywhere from 5 to 10 safe years.

Right now, 147 of Utah's 2,800 bridges fall into that category.

Drivers might think all of the road construction projects are a pain, but when it comes to bridges, there's actually a big pay off.

"Our bridges are getting in better condition because we're getting all of our old bridges replaced with new bridges. So when we look at deficiency, it's very low," Lindsey said.

Crews chipped away the remaining concrete in the panel with problems on the Foothill Drive overpass. In the next few days engineers will decide if they will cover it again with thin layer concrete or if they will put up wood and supports that are more secure.


Story compiled with contributions from Randall Jeppesen, Courtney Orton and Shara Park.


Related links

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics



Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the KSL.com Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast