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FHWA Marks 50th Anniversary of Silver Bridge Collapse

U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Public Affairs, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, D.C. 20590, - NewsFollow us on Twitter @USDOTFHWA USDOT briefing room

FHWA 21-17 Friday, December 15, 2017 Contact: Nancy Singer Tel.: (202) 366-0660

Speaks of significance in prompting national-level program for bridge inspections

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. – Acting Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson today joined state and local officials in a remembrance ceremony for the 46 people who died in the Silver Bridge collapse 50 years ago. The tragic event brought nationwide attention to the issue of bridge safety and led to a systematic effort by the FHWA known as the National Bridge Inspection Program. 

“The Silver Bridge collapse was a national wake-up call and propelled the nation into a new era of bridge safety” Hendrickson said.

In the evening of Dec. 15, 1967, during rush hour, the Silver Bridge connecting Ohio and West Virginia collapsed into the Ohio River.  Investigators later determined that the collapse was caused by a crack in an eyebar in the bridge’s suspension chain.

By 1971, National Bridge Inspection Standards were established as the result of the Federal-aid Highway Act of 1968. The new standards required that bridges, and their various component parts – ranging from pilings to deck plate – be inspected at least once every two years, with special emphasis on fractures, corrosion and fatigue. In addition, FHWA used the data from bridge inspections nationwide to create the National Bridge Inventory and to standardize bridge inspector qualifications. 

A half-century later, FHWA’s bridge inspection standards ensure that only bridges safe for travel are open to traffic. Over 300,000 bridge inspections are conducted annually.

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