Who could forget that deadly Minneapolis bridge collapse in 2007. It was a catastrophe that claimed 13 lives and terrified countless others. Yet, this was not the first bridge collapse in recent American history. There have been many other bridge collapses reported, some the result of crashes that created structural damage, yet other collapses, such as in Minneapolis, were the result of corrosion or structural deficiency. There have been many reports claiming that a major portion of America’s bridges are outdated, overburdened, and/or structurally deficient. The idea that our bridges could possibly be unsafe is definitely distressing, especially considering that most of America relies on bridges to get to and from their destinations.
During the election campaign, President Obama often addressed the need to fix America’s infrastructure. It is certainly a necessary task, but one which will likely take years to accomplish. In the meantime, how can you stay informed about the safety of your transportation route? There are public records databases which could allow users to view bridge inspection records. The Department of Transportation (DOT) in each state is responsible for ensuring the stability of the state’s bridges. Thus, any records about bridge inspections would likely be created by the DOT. However, these records databases are run by each state, so access to information will vary by state. Public access to bridge inspection records has actually become a debate among many, especially after the Minneapolis event. While the public feels they should have access to the information, some states limit the type of information to be made public based on terrorist concerns. Among the states that limit access to full bridge inspection reports are Florida, Iowa, and South Dakota. If you contact the DOT of these states, you may be able to get certain pieces of information; however, a full report may not be available.
There are a few states for which you can find bridge inspection records online. These states are Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. An online bridge inspections records database allows searches by state and county. Although you may not be able to view a full detailed report, this database provides the date of the last inspection, daily traffic rate, year built, name of the bridge/structure, and location. Status descriptions available from this report are not deficient, structurally deficient, or functionally obsolete. The data also includes a rating formulated from the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. The rating appears by percentages. If there is a rating for a structure below 50%, the means the bridge needs replacing.
While not all the information available about bridge inspections is detailed, it can still be useful to view. If your county has bridges which are structurally deficient, this could certainly be a consideration when states and counties create budgets. Your tax dollars are a major portion of the a state’s budget, including transportation budgets, so it is only fair that as taxpaying citizens, we can determine whether or not our money is being put to good use. To access bridge and inspection records and other public records about your state, visit The Free Public Records Directory.