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Greenville, OBX & Rocky Mount, North Carolina

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Rick Shapiro
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OBX’s Bonner Bridge Disrepair Raises Concerns over Bridge Maintenance Failure

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Nationally bridges and bridge approaches have been identified as one of the leading locations for severe, single-vehicle crashes. Many of these structures were built decades ago for roads of lower speed and less traffic. Many environmental and circumstantial factors affect a bridge’s life span. Often, the overall volume of traffic and the huge number of vehicles in urban regions may not have been contemplated when the bridge was first built. It is not only that number. You have to add the increase in vehicle weight, as well as enormous increases in large truck traffic.

We can see that delaying drastic measures is not a solution from the case of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge. The bridge spans Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and, for 43 years, it’s the been the only connection between Hatteras Island and the rest of Dare County. The environmental impact on the bridge and road was not fully understood at the time of construction, and now constant beach erosion, severe weather and high volume of traffic continually forces the state to protect the integrity of the highway/road system. A NCDOT Bridge Inspection Report for June 2002 rated the condition of the existing bridge as "poor". Since then, state and federal agencies, environmental groups and local citizen groups have all weighed in. As much as $50 million was spent between 1987 and 1999 to repair and protect the Bonner Bridge and NC 12 from the affect of the waterway below the bridge. The new bridge will cost approximately $1.3 billion and should by completed by 2014.

Because of the high cost of replacing bridges and the long service life of many bridges, temporary improvements, while not resolving a substandard condition, can significantly contribute to improving highway safety. However, temporary improvements should not be used as a substitute or justification for delaying rehabilitation of a bridge and/or bridge approach.

Many bridges don’t meet the safety requirements. According to a 2007 study, around 75,000 bridges across U.S. may be considered deficient. A frightening example was the incredible collapse of the Minneapolis bridge. Seven other major bridge collapses in the last 40 years have not pushed the govern to change its policy of delaying the most costly repair or replacement of bridges and other parts of the physical infrastructure. Inadequate bridge inspection has been a frequent documented problem, as well as some design defects. Many people have already been seriously injured or have died from bridge failures.

As with all injury cases, it is especially crucial to seek out an experienced injury attorney to evaluate your claim. Our firm is ready to assist you in reviewing your specific situation to see if your claim meets our criteria. In every state there are laws on how long you have to file a suit also, called the statute of limitations. Don’t hesitate, call our toll free number and get confidential legal advice.