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Pier protection ruled out for doomed US bridge

ENGINEERS IN Oklahoma had ruled out adding extra protection to the Interstate bridge over the Arkansas river which collapsed after an unprotected pier was demolished by a barge last month.

Fourteen people travelling across the bridge died following the bridge bash and subsequent collapse (NCE 30 May).

A report by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODT) last June stated that extra protection for the 606m long, multi-span bridge was 'not required'. ODT owns the bridge and has made no improvements since.

The Interstate Highway 40 bridge only has caisson protection on piers upstream of and either side of the 100.6m wide navigation channel. The barge involved in the accident was travelling upstream and veered off course after the pilot had a seizure.

ODT director Gary Ridley said few US bridges across the inland navigation system, including the 23,000 bridges in Oklahoma, have pier protection. Those that have dolphins generally only have protection on the upstream side.

Reconstruction of the bridge is expected to cost £10M, after maintenance and repairs of detour routes are accounted for. The Federal Highway Administration last week pledged £2M towards the demolition and rebuilding.

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