It’s been five-and-a-half years since the collapse of the I-35W Bridge. Remembering that infrastructure disaster may lead you to wonder, Could it happen again, this time in my community? Infrastructure expert Barry LePatner says it’s very possible—and his new and improved Save Our Bridges Interactive Map just might provide the answer.
New York, NY (February 2013)—On August 1, 2007, the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145 others. While the government treated the I-35W Bridge collapse as a “one-off,” the reality is that this bridge collapse could have been avoided, and many other similar bridges create a peril for the U.S. traveling public every day.
In September 2011 the Sherman Minton Bridge over the Ohio River between Indiana and Kentucky nearly suffered a similar fate. Like the I-35W Bridge, it was “structurally deficient,” meaning it had not been given sufficient maintenance funding so that it had fallen into serious disrepair. And both the Sherman Minton and the I-35W were similar to 7,980 bridges currently in use in the U.S. that were designed as fracture-critical, meaning a bridge’s design lacks support to hold up the bridge if a single component fails. (All 7,980 bridges have also been rated “poor” or structurally deficient.)
That’s right. In thousands of cities and towns across the U.S., Americans are relying on these bridges to safely transport them to work every day, to carry their children’s school buses, to transport the goods they need for their businesses, and yet, these bridges suffer the same problems that led a bridge to collapse just a few years ago.
“Federal and state governments are hiding the true state of disrepair of America’s infrastructure,” says LePatner, creator of the revamped www.SaveOurBridges.com and author of Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward (www.TooBigToFall.com).
“I, along with many other infrastructure leaders in the U.S., thought the I-35W collapse would be a wake-up call to the nation’s leaders. But it quickly became clear that the policymakers and government agencies in charge of infrastructure were content to sweep it under the rug and move on.”
Until recently, there hasn’t been an easy-to-understand source showing the 7,980 U.S. bridges that are both fracture-critical and structurally deficient. Back in August, to mark the fifth anniversary of the I-35W collapse, LePatner unveiled www.SaveOurBridges.com, a site he hopes will not only educate the public on the dangerous bridges in their communities but will help bring attention to an issue that is continuously ignored by the nation’s policymakers.
Now he’s pleased to let the public know about some exciting updates that have been made to the site, including an improved Search function to help users more easily locate the dangerous bridges in their areas.
The Save Our Bridges Interactive Map lets the public identify the dangerous bridges in their own communities and others to which they may travel. Here’s a full listing of the upgrades that have been made to SaveOurBridges.com:
• You can search it. Enter a city/state, county, or zip code along with a radius, and a new map will appear zeroing in on the bridges in that area along with a table listing the respective bridges.
• It is more detailed. Not only have more bridges been added, but now users can get more information about the bridges and a more detailed image of the bridge and its location. Click on any bridge marker to see a list of that bridge’s details. Then, click on the pop-up to go to a page showing a closer aerial view of the bridge, and, if available, a street view of that bridge.
• It includes sortable tables. With each search, a table of found bridges is also produced. The table provides each bridge’s specs and can be sorted by county, year built, the street the bridge carries, what it crosses over, the average daily traffic, the longitude, or the latitude. Sorts are performed by clicking the table’s column headings.
• There is faster load on slower Internet connections.
• Giving “on site” feedback is easier. If a bridge is found, but a user believes it is in the wrong location or the details appear incorrect, users can now click a link to send a notification e-mail on the corrections they think need to be made.
“People have a right to know if they’re driving over dangerous bridges and why they’ve gone unrepaired,” says LePatner. “It’s simply not true that there is no money for infrastructure investment. The truth is, states aren’t required to spend the federal funds they’re given on bridge repairs. They can, and do, allocate half of that money to other projects. Over the years, politicians have used these funds to build new projects that lead to ribbon-cutting ceremonies, publicity, and votes. Bridge repairs just aren’t sexy enough.”
Despite this poor decision making from state leaders and the slow economy, U.S. bridges can be repaired without impacting the deficit, insists LePatner. Repairing the top 2,000 bridges would cost an estimated $30-60 billion and would employ 1.2 million construction workers. These workers, many of whom would be coming off of unemployment, would pay back 30 percent of their money earned in income taxes, and much of the rest would be pumped back into the economy through their consumer spending.
“The difficult truth made clear by the Save Our Bridges Interactive Map is that the nation’s leaders can’t wait any longer to provide the needed funding to make our bridges safe,” says LePatner. “They must act now. Concrete, steel, and money aren’t the only things at stake. Lives are at stake. Nothing is more important than that.”
Coming soon! The Save Our Bridges Interactive Map will
soon be available as an app on all iPhones and iPads.
About Barry B. LePatner:
Barry B. LePatner is founder of the New York City-based law firm LePatner & Associates LLP. He is author of Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America’s Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry (University of Chicago Press, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-2264726-7-6, $25.00, www.BarryLePatner.com) and Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward (University Press of New England, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-9844978-0-5, $27.95, www.TooBigToFall.com).
He recently launched www.SaveOurBridges.com, a site educating the public on the perilous state of the nation’s infrastructure. The site includes an interactive map pinpointing the most dangerous bridges in the U.S.
For three decades, he has been prominent as an advisor on business and legal issues affecting the real estate, design, and construction industries. He is recognized as one of the nation’s leading advisors to corporate and institutional clients, real estate owners, and design professionals. Mr. LePatner has also been awarded the distinction of Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers magazine. In 2009, he was rated as one of the top ten real estate attorneys in New York City by the New York Observer.
A November 2007 Governing magazine article stated, “If there’s a guru of construction industry reform, it’s LePatner.” In November 2008, an article in New York magazine referred to Mr. LePatner as “a Cassandra of infrastructure.”
Mr. LePatner is recognized as a thought leader in the construction industry. As the coauthor of Structural and Foundation Failures (McGraw-Hill, 1982) and with 35 years of experience as a construction lawyer, he brings a special understanding of the engineering, business, and legal issues attendant to the design and construction processes—knowledge he put to good use in his latest book, Too Big to Fall. His second book, Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets, was very well received inside and outside the construction industry and helped create a national debate among owners, designers, and other key stakeholders.
Mr. LePatner has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, Forbes.com, the Chicago Tribune, Infrastructurist.com, and other prestigious publications. His articles and speeches on the perilous state of our nation’s infrastructure have garnered widespread attention, including his serving as a commentator on the multi-billion-dollar stimulus plan of the Obama administration. He has appeared on many television and radio broadcasts, including interviews on CNBC, Fox Business Network, and several National Public Radio segments.
A nationally recognized speaker, Mr. LePatner has addressed audiences on topics central to the real estate and construction industries, including events sponsored by the International Economic Forum of the Americas, Syracuse University, and several construction industry associations with audiences including contractors, architects, engineers, construction technology experts, economic experts, and other construction industry thought leaders.
In 2002, Mr. LePatner was honored by the American Institute of Architects with its highest award to a non-architect when he was given an honorary AIA membership. He is also currently on the Board of Trustees of the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA). He has also served on numerous advisory committees including: the Advisory Board, Society for Marketing Professional Services; the Board of the New York Building Congress; Board of Advisors, Legal Briefs for the Construction Industry; American Institute of Architects Advisory Committee; and the National Academy of Sciences.
About the Books:
Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward (University Press of New England, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-9844978-0-5, $27.95, www.TooBigToFall.com) and Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America’s Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry (University of Chicago Press, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-2264726-7-6, $25.00, www.BarryLePatner.com) are available at bookstores nationwide and all major online booksellers.