But Indiana Department of Transportation officials on Thursday called those terms misleading, arguing that they signal only a need for repairs or an update of bridge design, not a breakdown in the safety of the bridge.
"These are engineering terms, and they sound a lot more severe than they are," said INDOT spokeswoman Megan Tsai. " 'Structurally deficient' could be the paint on the beams was chipping."
A Purdue engineering expert totally disagrees with INDOT on this point. If it's 'structurally deficient,' then that's a serious problem," Kumares Sinha said. "I would consider it a serious matter, not just paint peeling off or something." "In classifying a bridge 'structurally deficient,' inspectors might identify a crack in a bridge's steel structure, or significant deflection -- bending -- of the bridge's deck when a vehicle drives across it, Sinha said. Those are serious problems, he said.
I suspect Sinha is more right than INDOT on this one. I had the pleasure a few years ago of working with a very distinguished retired engineer from INDOT who shared with me potential disasters all over the place. He warned me pre-Katrina there would be a massive failing of the levy systems in New Orleans. He talked about Indianapolis' crumbling sewer system. How many times have you witnessed a cave-in of a public street occurring before a city sewer has gotten fixed? He talked about how the city's water pressure is so inadequate in many locations around the city that IFD would be unable to fight a major fire. As I recall, that's exactly what happened when a skating rink caught fire a few years back. Firefighters lacked enough water pressure to fight the fire so the building just burned. And yes, he complained about the state of many of our bridges around the state and across the country. So the answer to the question can like what occurred in Minneapolis this week happen here? Absolutely.