Are earthquakes causing damage to Oklahoma bridges?

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While many homeowners are concerned about structural damage done to their homes following earthquakes, experts say they are also worried about roads and bridges.

Our state has been known to have problems with roads and bridges in the past, but the Oklahoma Department of Transportation says most of the problems aren’t being caused by earthquakes.

Since 2011, they’ve only found one bridge with earthquake damage; however, they are still concerned and still working to keep Oklahomans safe.

Last April, ODOT hired a consultant to take a closer look at how they inspect roads and bridges following an earthquake and to formulate an earthquake policy specific to Oklahoma roads.

The ongoing study will likely wrap up this spring, giving ODOT more specific guidelines regarding inspections. It will also draft an earthquake response plan and evaluate which type of bridge could be most vulnerable to damage from seismic activity.

 “Obviously, we don’t like the earthquakes any more than anyone else, but we’re doing everything we can to be very safe with them,” Terri Angier, with ODOT, said.

For now, crews will immediately check all bridges within five miles of an earthquake that registers magnitude 4.0 or higher.

“Every bridge on the highway system and if we see any need for concern, we expand that to a ten-mile radius,” said Angier.

They’re taking measures that California highway officials have said may be a little extreme.

Bridges across the country are built to national standards, standards which California officials believe can withstand earthquakes up to a 5.0 magnitude.

Fortunately, since 2011, officials have only found damage to one bridge near Prague, Oklahoma.

“We had a little bit of damage; very, very minor to one of our bridges. It was fixed almost immediately and it was at a cost of about $1000 which gives you an idea of the magnitude it was,” Angier said.

ODOT says it’s important to remember bridges are meant to withstand a good amount of vibration, whether that comes from everyday traffic or earthquakes.

“If you’ve ever stood on the side of the highway changing a tire, you really feel the vibration because those bridges are designed for that,” she said.

ODOT officials say if damage is found on those inspections, they would immediately shut the bridge down.

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