Arkansas Bridge Safety

BLACK ROCK-Bridge safety is once again in the spotlight as the National Transportation Safety Board ruled this week that steel gussets, which hold bridge trusses together could have played a role in the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

This leaves a big question, are bridges of similar construction in Arkansas really safe?

"The gusset plates on the Minneapolis bridge were not bolted or riveted in place. They were welded in place. We don't have any like that here in Arkansas. All of ours are either bolted or riveted," said Randy Ort with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

He says there are about 11 bridges in the state that use gusset plates.

"In all of our bridge inspections in Arkansas, that's part of what we look at. We feel very confident that all of our bridges of that type are safe," said Ort.

But you might find a different opinion if you ask those who travel these bridges frequently.

We stopped off in Black Rock and got quite the opposite reaction from motorists.

"It seems like in the last few years there's been a lot of work on it. They've had to repair a whole lot. I think it could stand to be rebuilt," said David Morse of Powhattan.

For those who travel the bridge over the Black River daily, they say the amount of traffic, including heavy trucks, is one of the main reasons they are concerned about their safety.

"I believe that they need to start another bridge. I can remember when that one opened up, and it's got too much weight going over it every day," said Lawrence Kildow of Black Rock.

However, the State says our bridges are a lot smaller than the one in Minneapolis and don't have nearly as much traffic.

They also say when it comes to the question of bridge safety, the answer is never 100 percent accurate.

"If you would have asked Minnesota engineers a similar question prior to that failure, they probably would have said the same thing. It's very hard to foresee everything," said Ort.

The AHTD tells us that it is believed that engineering and weight distribution may have played a large factor in the Minneapolis bridge collapse because it was under construction, and there were stockpiles of materials sitting static on one side of the bridge at the time of the collapse.

However, it could be years before the exact reason is determined.

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