The Federal Highway Administration lists over 17,000 structurally deficient bridges in the United States. A 2001 study of the I-35W bridge (Bridge 9340) over the Mississippi, conducted by the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation, found significant fatigue cracking but refused to recommend replacing the bridge in part to "avoid the high costs associated with such a project." Another government study rated the bridge a 4 on a scale of 0 to 9. The repairs that were underway at the time of the collapse were limited to the deck of the bridge, despite knowledge of the failing metal joints. Now what will the long-term costs be? What about the still untold human lives lost?
Investment in all critical U.S. infrastructure is minimal at best. Public transportation, outside of airports, receives little funding. Oil refineries, a critical part of our nation's infrastructure if there ever was one, are failing all the time. Major city water and sewage systems are in dire need of repair. The disgraceful state of most public schools outside of Orange Co., CA is shameful. Politicians and other public officials must be held accountable or you can expect catastrophes like the collapse of I35W bridge to become common events.
Federal Highway Administration
A Metallurgist’s Insights Into the Minneapolis Bridge Disaster