After DC 295 pedestrian bridge collapse, officials detail efforts to repair other infrastructure

The aftermath of the bridge collapse in Northeast D.C. Wednesday. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

 

After a pedestrian bridge over D.C. 295 collapsed on Wednesday when a truck ran into it, D.C. officials want people to know that the city already has plans in motion to repair other bridges in poor condition.

The bridge on Kenilworth Avenue in Northeast was recently rated “poor” after its latest inspection — a score of 4 out of 9 on a national scale.

Saesha Carlile, chief administrative officer with DDOT, told WTOP’s John Domen, “We have five bridges that have that ranking. Two of those bridges we are actually taking offline — one for work, and another we’re just taking offline.”

Among them are the Benning Road ramp, the H Street Hopscotch Bridge and the Roosevelt Bridge, said Dawit Muluneh, DDOT’s chief engineer. Bridges over the Suitland Parkway for 295 and South Capitol Street are being addressed now as part of the ongoing work to revamp the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge Project, which is expected to be completed later this year.

“All of them are in the works,” Muluneh said. “Those are much bigger structures than the pedestrian bridge here.”

‘Significant progress’

“DDOT has made significant progress over the last eight years on getting our bridges to a state of good repair,” Carlile said.

She emphasized that the 4 rating didn’t mean the bridge was unsafe.

“That is a process by which we began to evaluate additional maintenance measures to keep the bridge safe,” she said, adding that D.C. has a cycle of evaluating, funding and rehabilitating its bridges.

“When a bridge ranks a 4 — [when] it moves from a 5 to a 4 — that is the starting point for us to begin the process, the planning process and funding process for doing replacement of that bridge or a full rehabilitation or partial rehabilitation, depending on what is required,” Carlile said.

She said the projects and closures are planned.

“The most important message for us to get out is that, where we have bridges that need to be repaired or replaced, we’re doing that work,” Carlile said. “And we were doing that work on this bridge (the pedestrian bridge over DC 295) as recently as the end of May.”

Muluneh estimated that the cost of the Roosevelt Bridge project was in the area of $100 million. The Suitland Parkway projects are in the neighborhood of $500 million.

When the pedestrian bridge collapsed Wednesday after the truck strike, it shut down one of D.C. major roadways for more than 13 hours, causing massive traffic delays for thousands of drivers.

The highway reopened around 1 a.m. Thursday after collapsing before noon Wednesday.

In hours after the collapse, D.C. officials provided conflicting information about the condition of the bridge. Initially, officials said it had been rated a 5, or fair condition. That was the rating it got after its 2019 inspection.

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Chris Geldart said after a Wednesday news conference that officials investigated the bridge’s inspection history “deeper” and found the correct rating, but it “doesn’t take into account a truck hitting it.”

“We are on a two-year cycle that we do inspect all our bridges,” Geldart said. “As a bridges need repair, especially as they started getting into disrepair, when we start to get below a 4, then they go into emergency repairs. But in this case, this bridge was rated at a 4 just in May, when the report was completed, so we’re starting to make its way into our capital projects for next year.”

The bridge was built in 1956, according to the inspection report; it has not had a major renovation.

See video of the scene from WTOP’s news partner NBC Washington:

WTOP’s John Domen and Rick Massimo contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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Local News | Washington, DC News

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