The discovery of corroded steel support girders on the bridge to Virginia Key from Key Biscayne has prompted local officials to close the westbound lanes and route heavy trucks away from the structure until repairs are made.
And that could take up to a year, according to county transportation officials, including the two weeks in March when the Sony Open tennis tournament brings Key Biscayne its heaviest traffic of the year.
In the meantime, the two eastbound lanes of Bear Cut Bridge will be the only way across the water, with one lane headed east and the other west.
The Miami Herald reports the discovery of the corroded steel came at a time of already heightened concern about the bridge, which was built in 1944 and rebuilt in 1983:
Key Biscayne issued several vehicle weight restriction alerts via email beginning Dec. 18, including notifying commercial truck drivers on Wednesday that they would be required to obtain county permits to travel on the bridge.
The problem centers around the bridge’s steel beams, or girders, which have corroded, (Florida Department of Transportation administrator Dennis) Fernandez said. The beams support the surface of the bridge where vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians travel.
Previous FDOT inspections had identified the problem, according to Fernandez. “This is nothing new,” he said.
In the most recent inspection of the bridge on Dec. 26, Bear Cut was classified "structurally deficient," meaning it needs to be replaced within six years. But that was the same rating the bridge has been receiving for four years.
It's another reminder of the state of American infrastructure which has been of on and off concern since 2007 when a 40-year-old bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 and injuring 145 people.
Since then, various websites have assembled searchable databases of bridges and their safety classifications. The databases are of varying quality, currency and usability, but this one seems adequate. Type a city and state or a zip code into the search bar and all the bridges within 10 miles will appear with their ratings and conditions.