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Today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution front-page article provides a shocking revelation from the Department of Transportation.A twenty-nine year employee charged with inspecting state bridges faked his reports since last fall.Falsified inspection reports could suggest that faulty bridges are safe. A bridge collapse could lead to serious personal injuries or even death for the occupants of vehicles.

The two-man inspection team fell behind in their work, partly because one team member took off a good deal of time from work last year.Rather than own up to missing a deadline, they falsified reports.Not apparently the swiftest, the team claimed to have inspected 18 bridges in one day, which caught the attention of a supervisor.The DOT reports it will send out a new team to inspect the 54 bridges affected by the employee lying scandal.

Bridges are inspected at two-year intervals.However, bridges deemed critical may get an annual inspection.Valid DOT inspection reports show that one in five Georgia bridges are in need of repair or new design.Georgia spends about $100 million a year on bridge maintenance, but claims it needs $2.5 billion to rebuild deficient bridges.

Last August in Minneapolis, the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed during rush hour, sending dozens of cars into the water. The calamity killed 13 people and injured hundreds.

The National Transportation Safety Board attributed the collapse to design errors. The NTSB determined that steel gusset plates were too thin for the amount of weight on the bridge.Gusset plates are designed to hold together each joint on the bridge.Bridge inspectors did not evaluate this in their inspections during the lifespan of the bridge.More weight was added to the bridge in 1977 and 1998 by adding a center median, outside walls and a deck.Load calculations for the gusset plates were not done when the additions were made.

Of the 8,975 bridges in Georgia, 471 bridges are over 75 years old and 39 are over 100 years old.Over half the bridges are connected to the state or interstate highway system.Still, given these complex numbers it must be admitted that Georgia has never suffered a bridge collapse such as what occurred in Minnesota.

However, if any of the bridges that falsely passed the safety inspection fail, then liability would rest in the lap of the Georgia Department of Transportation.Let’s hope the GDOT gets a better team out there and makes the necessary inspections to ensure driver safety.

In the meantime, if you believe you may have been injured in an automobile accident or if you have a claim for governmental liability, contact the law firm of Robert N. Katz for a free, private consultation.

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