ODOT has new earthquake bridge inspection process

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OKLAHOMA - Some big news about earthquakes in Oklahoma - a yearlong study took a hard look at how strong an earthquake would need to be in our state to damage transportation infrastructure, like bridges.

The magic number appears to be 4.7, and knowing this number is supposed to help the Oklahoma Department of Transportation with their inspection and repair efforts.

When it comes to earthquakes, Oklahoma won't be getting a break anytime soon.

Just this week, the USGS released a survey that found our state has a 1 in 8 chance of experiencing damaging quakes this year.

That beats California, the state that typically has the highest probability.

"Ideally, we'd like to not worry about earthquakes, but it's a fact that we're living with now, and we want to be proactive and make sure that the infrastructure is safe and that we protect the traveling public," said Casey Shell, ODOT Chief Engineer.

Over the past year, an in-depth study with Infrastructure Engineers, Inc. and researchers from OU have been looking at how ODOT monitors and analyzes bridges after a quake.

The magnitude of the earthquake will determine how wide of an area will be inspected from the epicenter.

For example, a 4.7-4.8 will require a 5-mile inspection radius.

"We're very conservative, so we'll work our way up to that, but we're gradually work our way up as we continue to verify that there's no damage to our bridges, so we can get more comfort in that. Eventually, we'll work our way up to the 4.7," Shell said.

Also in the works is creating a post-earthquake bridge inspection manual.

"It could send the maintenance folks a text message that gives them a prioritize list of bridges to go look at. So, not just all the bridges in a five mile radius but what order to look at them in," Shell said.

The study cost $575,000.

For more information, visit www.ok.gov/odot

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