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george washington verrazano bridges vulnerable to similar collapse as baltimores key bridge
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George Washington, Verrazano bridges vulnerable to similar collapse as Baltimore’s Key Bridge

New York’s George Washington and Verrazzano-Narrows bridges are vulnerable to the same domino-effect catastrophic collapse that brought down the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, a new analysis warns. Officials had previously found that the Key Bridge was designed in such a way that if even a single steel component of the span failed, the entire structure could fail. Indeed, when the massive Dali container ship struck one of a vertical supports last week, the whole 1.6-miles bridge crumbled into the Patapsco River. At least 17,000 structures in the US have “fracture critical” construction like the Key Bridge did — among them some of the nation’s largest and most famous bridges, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing the Natation Transportation Safety Board. The Journal singled out eight bridges that have similar characteristics to the Key Bridge — including the two New York landmarks. Also on the list: the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge — which, like the Key Bridge, is a major connector in the greater Baltimore and Washington, DC area. According to the NTSB, the “fracture critical” design does not make these bridges unsafe, but it means they lack redundancy in their load-bearing designs. “People were surprised that the far side of the bridge fell,” Charles Carter, an engineer and president of the American Institute of Steel Construction, told the Journal.. “Because they all worked together, that was, unfortunately, inevitable.” Unlike the Key Bridge, New York’s George Washington and Verrazano-Narrows bridges, however, are suspension bridges, with support towers much closer to shore — making collision with an out-of-control cargo ship less likely. New York officials assured the public last week that the 14 bridges across the five boroughs are closely monitored and have the proper precautions in place to avoid the tragedy in Baltimore, where six construction workers are presumed dead. “Fracture critical” bridges are notably required to be flagged in inspection records and undergo special probes over its steel components, sometimes as often as every year, the WSJ reports. The NTSB’s inspection over the Key Bridge collapse is ongoing, with a preliminary report expected to be released in the coming weeks. A full report on the incident may take as long as two years, officials said. The bridge had previously passed inspections, and officials say no bridge in the US is designed to withstand a direct hit from a 95,000-ton container ship like the Dali.

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