Not all 'deficient' spans are dangerous
The collapse of a Minneapolis bridge has drawn attention to Hawaii's bridges.
TECHNICAL terms the federal government uses to classify the condition of bridges
would suggest that a large number of them in Hawaii are dangerous, but the classifications can be misleading.
Federal benchmarks rate about 46 percent of the islands' bridges as substandard, giving the state the third-worst standing in the nation. However, substandard can mean that the bridge has only one lane, no sidewalks or narrow shoulders -- not that it is in imminent risk of collapse.
Despite the hysterics of cable television news hawkers, Hawaii residents should not be overly alarmed. State officials, who are conducting biennial inspections this year as the federal government requires, surely will be mindful of the need for careful checks in the wake of the collapse of a six-lane bridge in Minneapolis last week.
The failure of the Mississippi River span has fittingly drawn attention to the worsening conditions of the nation's bridges and highways, and how federal funds for improvements are generally distributed through the wiles of politicians in Washington, rather than by greatest need.
Only a single bridge in Hawaii is like the one that came down in Minneapolis, the Kolekole near Hilo, and it has support features that the Minneapolis bridge did not.
Many of Hawaii's bridges deemed functionally obsolete or deficient are historic structures in rural areas. In most cases, communities do not want them changed, either for aesthetic reasons or because they serve to slow traffic.
Still, when public safety is threatened, the state should err on the side of caution.
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