No major problems uncovered in Oregon bridge inspections


Roughly 20 percent of the Oregon bridges with designs similar to the span that fell in Minneapolis have minor structural problems. But state inspectors said none has an imminent safety issue.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski ordered an inspection of Oregon's 47 steel deck truss bridges following the Aug. — collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, which killed at least a dozen people.

Inspectors examined 45 of the 47. One bridge was removed from the list because it was shut down as part of a local road closure. And an inspection of Portland's Sellwood Bridge, considered one of the state's shakiest, was delayed until Sept. 9.

"We didn't find anything outstanding or unusual that we didn't realize was there," said Bruce Johnson, state bridge engineer.

Inspectors mostly found fatigue cracks from the pounding bridges take from trucks and other vehicles. Rust on steel beams was also a problem.

Oregon is the No. 4 state in the nation for steel deck truss bridges like the one in Minneapolis, Johnson said. Unlike many states that merely examined their previous inspection reports on such bridges, Oregon sent state and contractor inspectors to do beam-by-beam inspections over the past few weeks.

"We can't rest," Johnson said. "We have to have a continued, ongoing, high level of inspections and maintenance, because in Oregon we have not only these 46 bridges but a fairly large number of older bridges that have significant deterioration in them."

State Sen. Rick Metsger, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, told The Oregonian newspaper that he and others are working on a package that would rival the $2.5 billion lawmakers committed to road and bridge repair in 2003. Metsger said the Minneapolis incident, though tragic, has raised needed awareness on the issue.

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