Smiley face
Weather     Live Markets

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore has led to questions about the safety measures in place to protect against such disasters. The bridge was struck by a 985-foot long cargo vessel, resulting in the loss of six lives. This incident has drawn parallels to previous bridge collapses worldwide, with 35 major collapses recorded between 1960 to 2015 due to ship collisions. In the U.S., 18 of these incidents occurred, including the notorious Sunshine Skyway Bridge collapse in Florida in 1980, which claimed 35 lives. In response to that tragedy, protective measures were implemented, such as bumpers, fendering systems, and widened shipping lanes.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, built in 1977, appears to lack similar protective barriers like those seen on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The pier that was struck by the cargo vessel did not have any protective structures surrounding it. The sheer size and weight of the vessel, with a dead weight tonnage of nearly 117,000 tons, may have rendered existing protective systems ineffective. Ron Harichandran, Dean of the Tagliatela College of Engineering, suggested that constructing an island around the piers would have been a more effective solution, although it is a costly measure. The lack of protective barriers around the bridge is now under scrutiny as part of the investigation into the collapse.

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, highlighted the importance of protective structures in preventing bridge collapses. The NTSB’s investigation will focus on the bridge’s construction and whether safety improvements are needed. At least six construction workers who were on the bridge at the time of the collapse are presumed dead. Harichandran proposed the use of cost-effective systems like trip wires and warning sensors to provide early alerts to bridge users and authorities in case of potential disasters. These systems could have potentially prevented the tragic collapse by allowing for quicker responses and evacuation procedures.

In the aftermath of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse, experts are reflecting on the importance of protective measures in safeguarding critical infrastructure. The lessons learned from previous bridge collapses, such as the Sunshine Skyway Bridge incident, underscore the need for comprehensive safety strategies. Harichandran emphasized the significance of incorporating protective barriers and warning systems during the initial construction phase of bridges rather than retrofitting them later. The investigation into the Maryland bridge collapse will explore potential safety improvements, including the installation of protective structures around piers to prevent similar tragedies in the future. It remains to be seen what measures will be implemented to enhance the safety of bridges and prevent catastrophic incidents like the one in Baltimore from reoccurring.

© 2024 Globe Echo. All Rights Reserved.