The Washington state bridge collapse was a reminder to U.S. drivers about the dangers posed by our nation's aging infrastructure.
The United States currently has the largest road network of any country on Earth, with more than 4 million miles of roads and streets. Although the construction of this elaborate highway system is certainly a national accomplishment, maintaining an aging transportation network is a challenge in which we've fallen short, as a bridge collapse last week loudly reminded the nation.
Last week, a truck collided with a bridge girder on Interstate 5 in Washington, leading to a bridge collapse over the Skagit River near Mount Vernon. Although there were luckily no fatalities from the collapse, three people sustained injuries that required a hospital stay, and the total bill for the damages is expected to reach about $15 million.
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The 18-wheeler may have hastened the demise of this particular bridge, but there's no doubt its age played a role in its collapse. It had even been rated "functionally obsolete," although state officials asserted it was safe for drivers, according to CNN. The I-5 bridge in near Mount Vernon, Wash., isn't unique for its age. Consider this: The average age for bridges in the United States was 42 years in 2011, and many have already exceeded their expected 50-year lifespan, according to a report by Transportation for America.