Inspectors span state for testing of bridges
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After falling years behind in their bridge inspections, state and county governments have contracted with bridge inspectors to meet federal mandates.
All bridges in the nation are supposed to be inspected every two years, but more than 45 percent, some 500 bridges, had not been inspected in more than two years, according to the 2006 National Bridge Inventory.
The state hired contractors in December, so all bridges in the state will be inspected by Feb. 15, state transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said yesterday.
Still, in 2006 some 147 of Hawaii's bridges were deemed "structurally deficient" by inspectors, meaning they were in need of repair or replacement.
Bridges deemed structurally deficient need significant maintenance, attention, rehabilitation or replacement. State officials said this usually means weight limits have been lowered.
Source: National Bridge Inventory
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More than 40 percent of Hawaii's 1,100 bridges had not been inspected up to federal guidelines as of late last year, state officials acknowledged yesterday.
But now they expect to get the job done by Feb. 15, thanks to the hiring of bridge inspectors under contract.
Hawaii ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2006 as the only state with more than 30 percent of its bridges having gone without an inspection for more than two years, in violation of a federal mandate. And that problem had not been solved as of last year, with more than 45 percent of the state's bridges not inspected, state Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said.
The state also ranked fourth, behind Washington, D.C., Rhode Island and Massachusetts, with 45 percent of its bridges deficient or obsolete, according to 2006 National Bridge Inventory statistics.
That number is misleading, Ishikawa said, as some of the bridges deemed "functionally obsolete" are made that way.
The Hanalei Bridge on Kauai, for instance, is deemed "functionally obsolete" because it is a narrow, one-lane bridge. But community members have fought to keep it that way, Ishikawa added.
The bridge was renovated five years ago, and the project actually won a federal award, Ishikawa added.
However, 13 percent, or 147, of Hawaii's bridges were deemed "structurally deficient," or in need of maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement, according to the 2006 National Bridge Inventory.
None of them is in danger of collapsing, Ishikawa said yesterday. For the majority, "engineers tend to lower the weight limit" when they find problems on the bridge.
"A lot of the bridges are rural-type bridges," he added. "They are kind of out of the way."
As for the inspections, Ishikawa said he expects counties and the state will learn from past mistakes.
While neither the state nor counties have enough bridge inspectors, they will award contracts to bridge inspectors a little more quickly to meet federal guidelines, he said.
Bridge inspectors were hired via contract "to step up the work" in December, Ishikawa added. "It is fair to say we had a lack of manpower in keeping up with recent bridge inspections," he said in a statement.