Leo Frigo Bridge Closed: 400-Foot Sag In Green Bay, Wisc. Bridge Halts Traffic ‘Indefinitely,’ Highlights America’s Aging Infrastructure
A huge, 400-foot-long sag in the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Wisconsin prompted authorities to halt traffic on the structure "indefinitely." According to engineers, it could take up to a year to straighten out the slumped bridge, a main thoroughfare for those traveling along the north side of Green Bay.
Video footage of the bridge from CNN shows a noticeable depression in Leo Frigo. Authorities aren't quite sure how it happened, but they say two of the bridge's pillars dropped more than 20 inches, causing the large indentation in the road.
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According to CNN, commuters noticed something amiss about the bridge during their morning commutes on Wednesday. Around 4:45 local time, the 911 calls came flooding in after a number of drivers realized the bridge was significantly sagging. One truck driver carrying a full load reported that a bunch of tires fell off the back of the truck when he hit the dip.
"I went westbound and I noticed it, and I kind of thought I was dreaming, you know?" one 911 caller told the dispatcher, according to WBAY, ABC 2.
The bridge was closed to traffic by 5:30 am. Engineers from the Department of Transportation, or DOT, were dispatched to the bridge Wednesday and Thursday to investigate the sag. Using lasers, they determined that Pier 22 on the north end of the Leo Frigo sank 22 inches into the ground on one side of the road and 27 inches on the other. The ground around the pier cracked and lifted up, according to WBAY, ABC 2.
After measuring the bridge piers every six hours, they've determined that the pier doesn't seem to be settling any further. Adjacent piers also haven't moved at all. A group of regional, state and national highway experts will work together to try and figure out why exactly the bridge began to sag.
Built in 1980, the bridge is on the north side of Green Bay, Wisconsin. At 203 feet tall, it is the highest structure in the Green Bay area. The road itself is 120 feet above the water - 100 feet less than the Golden Gate Bridge.
There are 607,380 bridges across the country. The average age of U.S. bridges, which carry more than 29 million drivers a day, is 42 years. According to an AP analysis of U.S. bridges, of the approximately 607,000 bridges in America, 65,605 of them are classified as "structurally deficient," and an additional 20,808 are considered "fracture critical." Many of them have been around past their life expectancies. As vehicles and truckloads have gotten bigger and heavier, and as traffic on bridges has surpassed what they were intended to carry, it's no wonder the wear and tear is beginning to show.
"Who's to say that somebody's not taking something that weighs more than 6,000 pounds across a 3-ton max bridge?" Jan Weismantel, a highway superintendent in South Dakota, told AP. "It's kind of a gamble. It's also very dangerous. Somebody could get killed."
According to the 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure, in order to meet all the demands of the U.S.'s aging bridges, we would need to invest $20.5 billion annually over the next 15 years. "The challenge for federal, state, and local governments is to increase bridge investments by $8 billion annually to address the identified $76 billion in needs for deficient bridges across the United States," the report reads.
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