Bridge Safety in Bexar County!
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
August 6, 2007

In 1986, a 30-year maintenance supervisor in the TXDOT Northeast Maintenance Office by the name of Fred Pfeifer made an interesting discovery that earned him a place on my list of "Most Incredible Events in Bexar County". Mr. Pfeifer noticed that some concrete riprap had slid down an embankment and was putting pressure on a support column to the bridge located at I-10 and Rosillo Creek. Upon considering the implications of the situation to the safety of the bridge, he called for I-10 and the bridge to be shut down because of the imminent danger.

This was a drastic measure for sure. However, after some discussion among staff, I-10 was shut down. The next day as if by prophesy, the bridge fell down!

This single courageous and professional act on the part of Mr. Pfeifer stands as unusual if not unique in Texas highway history. The easy thing to have done would have been to allow some higher-up to make the hard decision. Instead Mr. Pfeifer made the call and backed it up with his conviction. Thank God!

This just shows the professional caliber of the men and women that have been working at TXDOT for all of these years and the value of the retention of individuals like Mr. Pfeifer who can render service that is truly above and beyond the call of duty!

Contrast this with the tragedy of Minnesota! According to CNN.com, "U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters notified state transportation departments Thursday to immediately inspect all bridges of the same design as the one that collapsed Wednesday in Minnesota.

Brian Turmail, spokesman for the Transportation Department, said there are about 750 bridges across the country that have similiar steel deck truss designs. Turmail said the meaure is being taken "out of extreme caution."

"In 2005, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Bridge Inventory database concluded the bridge was 'structurally deficient.'

Minnesota Department of Transportation bridge engineer Dan Dorgan said the term "structurally deficient" is a Federal Highway Administration rating.

"Inspectors rate sections of the bridge on a 1 to 9 scale, with 9 being in excellent condition, he said.

"A structurally deficient condition is a bridge that would have a rating of 4 either in the deck, the superstructure or the substructure," he said. "Any one of those in condition 4 or less is considered structurally deficient."

I believe Bexar County residents and motorists should know the condition of the bridges over which they travel. So I am requesting the Metropolital Planning Organization (MPO) to add an agenda item for its next meeting so that TXDOT can inform us as to the condition of Bexar County's bridges.

We all deserve to know in advance of unsafe bridges in order to avoid any similar catastrophe in Bexar County!

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