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After Baltimore bridge collapse, are New York City bridges vulnerable?



NEW YORK (WABC) — Multiple bridge engineers tell Eyewitness News a vessel that weighs as much as the one did in Baltimore, traveling at that rate of speed, would’ve caused catastrophic damage no matter which bridge it hit.

“It’s time to go out and rethink what you have to and make sure that all the inspections and all the studies have been made for the individual bridges themselves,” said retired bridge engineer Andy Herrmann.

Underneath the water, bridge pillars have built in fenders called dolphins. They work like bumpers to help prevent impact.

The safety designs changed and improved since 1980 when a similar collision and collapse happened in Tampa killing dozens of people.

The bridge that collapsed in Baltimore early Tuesday morning was completed just a few years before 1980.

Christiane Cordero is live in Baltimore with more on the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.

Engineers say newer bridges like the Mario Cuomo are built to help withstand collision, but older bridges are not. The average age of a bridge in the New York City area is 50 years old.

“I would expect that they would be able to withstand the impact but older structures, it’s questionable,” said Serafim Arzoumanidis, a retired bridge engineer.

But there’s good news for bridges in the Tri-State area. Most of them, like the Bayonne Bridge, don’t have support columns in the middle of the waterway. Instead, they’re near the water’s edge.

“I’m optimistic that generally there is not much of an issue in New York with bridges,” Arzoumanidis said.

On Tuesday, New York City Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi said the city is communicating with Baltimore officials.

“Our own bridge infrastructure is some of the most highly monitored bridge infrastructure in the nation and also the coordination with vessels and our bridge communication is highly sophisticated,” Joshi said.

In a statement, MTA B&T President Catherine Sheridan reassured this further, stating:

“MTA bridges are equipped with a wide range of safety technology, including ship collision protections. The Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, where the largest ship traffic passes, is a special case in that has a robust rip rap system (rock island around the tower bases) which would cause a ship to run aground before it could do significant damage to the bridge.”


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