13 NEWS SPECIAL REPORT: Dangerous Bridges - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

13 NEWS SPECIAL REPORT: Dangerous Bridges

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With more than 7,000 bridges in the state of West Virginia, over 1000 of them are considered to be structurally deficient. 

"It is kind of scary. You don't know if it will fall, you don't know if you are under it will it break?" said Leslie Waters of Charleston, WV. 

Federal guidelines mandate all bridges be inspected at least once every two years.

"We look at it and we say well do we feel okay not seeing this again for two years and if the answer is no we will reduce that," said Tracy Brown, a Bridge Engineer with the West Virginia Department of Transportation. 

The Westmoreland Bridge, which runs along I-77 North and South Bound is crossed by more than 50,000 cars every day. Its deteriorating deck scores a low 4 out of 9 on the federal safety scale. However, the Westmoreland bridge isn't the biggest worry for those at the West Virginia Department of Transportation.  

WVDOT engineers say that, more often than not, the bridges they find to be critically deficient are in lightly traveled areas.

After mounds of debris literally pushed a bridge in Putnam County off it's foundation, the WVDOT was forced to close it.

"It's the inadequate ability of the state to be able to use their man power and equipment. They're not setting their priorities where they should be setting their priorities," said Johnny Thomas of Putnam County, WV. 

Engineers say these short comings are often the result of poor funding. District one, which includes Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Mason, and Putnam Counties operates on a little over $1 million dollars a year. With that type of budget, engineers are forced to put critically deficient bridges first while others slowly slip into disrepair. 

"Some of our good and fair bridges need work too to keep them in good and fair condition. When funding gets tight like this they don't and they wind up sliding down to fair and poor," said Tracy Brown with the WVDOT. 

The never ending cycle is something WVDOT engineers don't see changing any time soon, but they do want commuters to know that the bridges they cross every day are secure. 

"Well, you know I can't say our bridges are great and I can't say our bridges are good, but I can say that everybody crossing them is safe," said Track Brown with the West Virginia Department of Transportation. 

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