Everybody is always worried about the "BIG ONE", the giant earthquake that will make California disappear into the Pacific Ocean. Our senses are heightened and we are extra mindful when we hear about earthquakes. We might even check our house for cracks and maybe slow down a little before going over a bridge to make sure it's still there.
The vast damage and destruction that a failed bridge brings forces us to rethink our priorities and challenge how our resources are invested. We all know that any size of earthquake is very hard on a bridge. The impacts of a bridge failing goes way beyond simply financial concerns.
Most people are surprised to know how little bridge movement is actually need for a bridge to become structurally compromised. How about the length of your hand. That's it. From the time the bridge is newly built to the time it may be on the brink of failure is only 6". Earthquakes cause big movements in a very short amount of time. But, what about slow movements over a long period of time. Would a 1/2" movement over the course of a year cause red flags to be raised? That's only 1/16" per month. Probably not. That kind of slow movement isn't even considered an earthquake but instead the natural expansion and contraction of the earth.
But, life moves on. Remember the story about the frog in a pot?
This same principal applies to bridge safety...only much worse.
The American public is well aware of the general disrepair of the public roadways but at least we know that some amount of funding is being invested back into our nations highways and major roadways.
But, how about private bridges or bridges owned by smaller government agencies, like parks departments? The truth would probably make you not want to leave your house. There are tens of thousands of privately owned bridges and thousands more owned by smaller government agencies with no federal bridge oversight. A typical home owner may not even be aware that their bridge is deficient until it's too late. A large land owner may not even know how many bridges are under his responsibility. A small government agency may not have the resources to even look into the basic bridge maintenance requirements. All of this equals the same problem; unsafe bridges.
The most common solution is to wait until the bridge fails then pay for repairs/replacement plus costs of litigation since somebody was probably on the bridge which caused the bridge to fail. Something as inexpensive as a maximum load rating sign or some minor repairs could potentially save millions of dollars in expenses.
Here is a challenge: Most cities have bridges as a part of the park system. Why not call and ask them when was the last time their bridge was inspected? How about a bridge leading into a shopping mall. Ask the mall manger when their bridge was last inspected. How about all those electrical transmission lines running throughout the country. Ask them if they even know how many bridges they have. I can bet all the their answers will be similar. "IDK".
The answer is simple. Get your bridge inspected. You don't necessarily need to hire a professional bridge company, like Paragon Bridge Works, as a very simple inspection at the most critical bridge elements should give you a good idea of the overall condition of the bridge. Your initial findings will either give you comfort or cause you concern. Give Paragon Bridge Works a call to discuss your findings or to schedule a site visit.
The next step is to create a plan. The worst time to buy a bridge is when your bridge has already failed. This is especially true for large land owners or government agencies. Create a plan that way WHEN the bridge fails you will be able to easily make a few phone calls and get the ball rolling. Things you should know before your bridge fails may include:
- Who are you going to get the bridge from? Regardless of which bridge company you choose, make sure you have their personal cell phone numbers readily available as most bridges fail at the most inconvenient time. A Paragon representative is available to our clients 24/7/365.
- Overall dimensions. How long and wide of a bridge do you need. This is usually the easiest to get.
- What loading rating do you need? This is the question that often makes things complicated, especially in a rush/emergency application. Bridge owners should NOT assume that the new bridge needs to be certified to be the same as the old bridge. This is where sitting down with all vested parties BEFORE the bridge fails is a huge time and energy saver.
- Budget. Bridge owners need to be financially prepared to cover the costs of the new bridge so having a rough ball park number will make things go much smoother. A Paragon bridge will be about half the cost of traditional construction.
- Do you need a Band-aid? What are you going to do if your new bridge takes 6 months to build? Do you need a temporary bridge in the meantime? Paragon Bridge Works does offer temporary bridge rentals.
The bottom line...