Amid Atlanta highway bridge collapse, here's a look at Austin-area bridge inspection reports

Early Thursday evening at approximately 5:40 p.m. CST time, a large fire caused an Atlanta interstate bridge to collapse, according to the Associated Press.

The Georgia Department of Transportation authorities say they have shut down I-85 near GA 400, and travelers are cautioned to avoid the area. No deaths or injuries have been reported, and no foul play is currently suspected.

In Texas, a report is produced every other year by the Texas Department of Transportation to evaluate each state bridge, including many highway crossings similar to the collapsed Atlanta highway.

The every-other-year report examines all the bridges and qualifies each as:

  1. Sufficient: meaning in good or better condition

  2. Structurally deficient: has an extreme restriction on load carrying capacity, has deterioration severe enough to reduce load carrying capacity from original levels, requires immediate rehabilitation to remain open, is closed, is frequently overtopped during flooding

  3. Functionally obsolete: unable to serve current traffic because of bridge width, load carrying capacity, vertical or horizontal clearances

  4. Substandard for load only

The 2016 inspection report includes assessments for these Central Texas counties. Data includes conditions of state-managed and locally managed bridges:

  • Travis County had 1,413 bridges total, with 3 declared structurally deficient, 269 deemed functionally obsolete and the remaining 1,134 named sufficient. In total, 80.3 percent of Travis County's bridges were sufficient. This is a dip in performance from 2010 when 80.8 percent of the 1,317 Travis County bridges were named structurally sufficient.

  • Williamson County had 970 bridges total, with 5 named structurally deficient, 104 named functionally obsolete and 855 ranked as sufficient. Overall, 88.1 percent of Williamson County bridges are sufficient. This is a slight decrease in performance from the 2010 report, which indicated 89.5 percent of the 889  bridges were sufficient.

  • Hays County had 192 bridges total, with 1 named structurally deficient, 21 named structurally obsolete, and the remaining 171 evaluated as sufficient. A total of 89.1 percent of bridges were deemed sufficient. This is an improvement from Hays County bridges' quality in 2010, when only 80.9 percent of the 157 total bridges were sufficient.

Inspections are most often done on a rotating two-year schedule. The frequency of these inspections can increase depending on the condition or age of the bridge. Other inspections are done after the bridge is initially completed, in the event of emergency situations that could alter the condition of the bridge and as follow-ups to regular inspections.

Find out more about bridge inspection standards in TxDOT's bridge inspection manual.


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