Mar 13, 2010

On Crumbling Michigan Bridges and Curious Solutions

Left: Planks of plywood and chunks of concrete; click picture for larger image

(Romulus, MI) While stuck in traffic on Interstate 275 yesterday, our car crept past a curious site underneath an overpass for Pennsylvania Road. Bridges in the area are undergoing some repair work, but this particular bridge appears to be shedding significant amounts of concrete.

In response to the falling chunks of bridge, employees of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) designed a rather low-tech temporary solution. The safety device they built consists of two 4' x 8' sections of plywood supported by some anchored 2" x 4" boards.

Now, admittedly I am not a structural or civil engineer, so this fix might indeed be standard operating procedure. However, given the news of other bridges in the area being shut down due to safety concerns, I was a bit wary of the idea that mere pieces of plywood were all that stood between my vehicle and the falling chunks of concrete, like trying to produce high-end catalog printing with a couple of Crayola crayons and a ruler.

Any civil engineers in the audience - or anyone who plays a civil engineer on television - is welcome to weigh in with an opinion in the Comments section to either put us civilians at ease or cause us to avoid driving under Michigan overpasses.


Middle Aged Woman said...

I don't know about safety, but I do know Engler let the roads go completely untouched for eight years. No traffic cones and orange barrels on Johnny's watch, sir!

Jason said...

Here in Pennsylvania, PennDOT actually built a whole bridge underneath another, higher bridge that's shedding chunks of concrete. If I had a picture handy, I would link to it....