Located in the Caribbean the island of Puerto Rico would make for a wondrous getaway; especially with the chilly autumn season making its way in and the frigid winter season steadily behind it. However, the island located by a massive body of ocean may have found a negative feature. The salty ocean air isn’t merely bring a cool breeze to those who inhabit the island but its causing some damages.
According to federal data, a total of 31 bridges in Puerto Rico are considered structurally deficient and critically fractured. Dozens of bridges are suffering from the ocean salt that is being carried by the air which is weakening the structures of bridges making it difficult for officials to decide which bridge needs more tending to first.
Director of Puerto Rico’s Road Authority, Javier Ramos said that officials plan on fixing all 31 bridges but they are still safe and if they were not he would have closed them. Ramos goes on to say that the majority of the bridges need to have concrete slabs replaced since corroding metal rods are snapping thus weakening the structure.
“We live in a tropical island,” Director Ramos adds, “regardless of how close or far away we are from the ocean, that salty environment is present in any corner of the island.”
In the United States of America there are an estimated 7,795 bridges that are said to be critically fractured and structurally deficient. The 31 bridges in Puerto Rico are said to be part of the number listed above; according to experts the numbers is considerably problematic.
Experts believe this to be problematic because a bridge that is given a critically fracture or fracture critical designation has no redundant protection which could possibly lead to a collapse if an integral component were to fail.
In analyzed data researched by The Associated Press, according to the National Bridge Inventory there is a total of 607,380 bridges that are subject to by inspected by the National Bridge Inspection Standards. According to a most recent data by the Federal Government, there are an estimated 65,605 structurally deficient bridges on a national level with an estimated 20,808 fracture critical bridges.
Puerto Rico’s representative in the United States Congress, Pedro Pierluisi said that “Puerto Rico has relatively few structurally deficient highway bridges as compared to some states.”
Representative Pierluisi goes on to add that the Federal Highway Administration distributes an estimated $150 million a year to Puerto Rico’s Department of Transportation. The money is believed to be a flexible sum that would be used to repair bridges. Out of the $150 million, $30 million is said to be spent on the bridges so that crews can repair an average of 5 to 7 bridges
There are a total of 2,270 bridges in Puerto Rico; the 31 bridges are said to be in bother urban and rural areas located above creeks or rivers around the island’s coastal regions. Authorities of Puerto Rico’s Department of Transportation inspect the bridges every two years. After the inspection of a bridge in Guayanilla, a town located in the southern part of Puerto Rico, was discovered to have concrete slabs crumbling apart due to heavy rains the bridge was closed.
However, some of the top problematic bridges in Puerto Rico are the oldest ones that are still being used.
The historic Mavilla Bridge, a stone bridge, in the town of Corozal was built in 1900 is an example of such bridges that need repair. Another historical bridge, one of the first bridges built on the island, in the eastern coastal town of Naguabo will be the first few repaired, said Director Ramos.
“We have bridges that have exceeded their lifespan,” Director Ramos said, discussing the problem with most of Puerto Rico‘s bridges.
The older bridges built in the island were designed about 4 decades ago with the intention of withstanding about 20 tons of weight or so. However, the trucks carrying goods across these bridges weigh far more than the estimation, added Director Ramos.
“Any bridge that is on the list requires immediate or short-term attention,” said Director Ramos, “It doesn’t mean it presents an imminent danger. If that were the case, we would obviously take the decision to close.”
Current plans are underway to repair the bridges in Puerto Rico; updating the bridges to modern times to safeguard civilians who travel across them.