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Don’t fret about the US 95 bridge collapse, Nevada’s bridges among nation’s safest

Updated February 14, 2022 - 2:17 pm

If last month’s collapse of the U.S. Highway 95 bridge at Eastern Avenue during a planned demolition had you worried about the safety of road structures in the Silver State, this should help calm those nerves.

Nevada’s bridges were named as some of the safest in the world, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s annual report.

The association’s data revealed that just 1.4 percent of Nevada’s bridges are deemed structurally deficient. That sits much lower than the 7 percent average seen nationwide and had the state tied with Texas and neighboring Arizona for the best in the country.

A structurally deficient bridge is defined as one in need of rehabilitation or potential replacement. Despite being deemed structurally deficient, those bridges are not necessarily unsafe or dangerous, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation. Bridges that are deemed structurally deficient become a priority for corrective measures, including weight restrictive measures.

The association found just 29 bridges throughout the state deemed structurally deficient, though there are over 200 bridges that need some level of repair. The report notes it won’t come cheap to carry out that work.

“The state has identified needed repairs on 275 bridges at an estimated cost of $663.1 million,” the report read.

Of the 25 most traveled structurally deficient bridges in the state, four are found in Clark County, according to the report: the U.S. 95 bridge at Eastern; the U.S. 95 bridge at Desert Inn (currently being upgraded); Paradise Road over the Tropicana wash; and the Interstate 15-Silverado Ranch Boulevard.

The Silverado Ranch bridge may come as a surprise, as the bridge was completed in 2008. NDOT spokesman Justin Hopkins said that was the result of damage that has since been corrected.

“That bridge suffered a significant high-load hit shortly before its scheduled inspection in 2020 and was classified as deficient because of the damage incurred,” Hopkins said. “It has since been repaired and is no longer classified as structurally deficient.”

Two of the other bridges listed, the U.S. 95 bridges over Eastern and Desert Inn, are currently being addressed as part of the $40 million U.S. 95 viaduct rehabilitation project. The stretch of U.S. 95 the two bridges are located on averages between 122,400 and 127,000 vehicles daily.

“NDOT was proactive in identifying the need to have both bridges rebuilt and was quick to act,” Hopkins said. “The I-515 bridge replacements are the result of an award of a competitive Federal Highway Administration bridge grant in 2019. We are excited that both bridge projects are on or ahead of schedule and should be fully rebuilt later this year.”

Of Nevada’s more than 2,000 bridges, over 500 are more than 50 years old, an age when rehabilitation is often necessary to keep the structure in fair condition, according to NDOT.

NDOT credits the state’s high-ranking on the association’s list to its ongoing bridge inspection and rehabilitation work. The state transportation department inspects bridges every two years, with those with more extensive deterioration inspected more frequently. Select newer bridges are reviewed every four years.

“Bridges are a critical component of our statewide connectivity and safety,” NDOT Director Kristina Swallow said in a statement. “The NDOT team works tirelessly to ensure our bridges keep Nevadans safe and connected on our roadway system, and I am proud to once again see Nevada ranked as having some of the best bridges in the nation.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com.