A Windham woman and her 12-year-old son were seriously injured last month in a Maine car accident in which their vehicle tore through a guardrail on Route 1 in Bath and plunged 30-feet off a two-lane bridge, before landing upside down on a pickup truck. The Portland Press Herald reported the bridge from which the car fell had numerous missing or broken rail bolts. Structurally, it was designed to prevent exactly this sort of thing. But it did not, and those deficiencies may have been a factor.
The horrific crash now has officials with the Maine Department of Transportation launching an investigation into more than a dozen bridges across the state that may have structural inadequacies or safety concerns.
The 37-year-old woman and her 12-year-old son had to be extricated from the mangled mass of metal by firefighters and were then transported via ambulance to the Maine Medical Center in Portland with serious injuries. Fortunately, the injuries they suffered were not expected to be life-threatening.
The 60-year-old pickup driver amazingly emerged from the auto accident unscathed, but the impact of the sport utility falling onto his vehicle crushed the rear end of his pickup truck as it sat near the intersection of Washington and Vine streets.
Following the collision, MDOT shut down the viaduct for approximately two hours.
Road crews had just laid down salt a few minutes prior to the accident and snow was actively falling. It’s not clear at this point, officials say, whether speed was a factor. Remember: Speed limits are generally set for optimum driving conditions. When there are adverse whether conditions – such as rain, sleet, snow or ice – drivers are expected to slow it down. In this instance, investigators say alcohol was decidedly not a contributing factor.
The only mark on the woman’s driving record happened last year, when she was cited for driving with a license that was expired.
Officials said guardrails were installed on the bridge a number of years ago, and crews indicated during an initial round of testing that the guardrails appeared to be structurally sound. However the section that was sheered off as a result of the crash was destroyed and replaced.
Federal safety guidelines require bridges undergo inspection every two years, but it’s not known when the last time this bridge was checked. It was built in 1958, and was slated for replacement sometime this year. Officials had allotted $15 million for the work, and construction is scheduled to begin this fall.
The American Road and Transportation Builders Association reports nearly 205 million daily crossings on 59,000 bridges that are structurally deficient and need repair.
In Maine, the agency reports 37 percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient. Further, some 470 – or about 19 percent – are deemed “functionally obsolete.” What that means is the bridge doesn’t meet the basic design standards that we currently accept as safe.
A bridge that is “structurally deficient” is one that has issues with a key element, such as the substructure, superstructure or deck being in “poor” condition.
The federal government has set aside some $860 million for improvements of more than 600 bridges.
If you are the victim of a Portland auto accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Windham woman, son survive SUV’s plunge from Bath bridge, April 22, 2016, By Dennis Hoey, Portland Press
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