PORTLAND, Ore. — Earthquakes remain the most serious threat to bridges and freeway overpasses across the nation, but highway engineers say terrorism has been added to the list of concerns.
“Every man, woman and child in our country has the right to expect a safe and reliable transportation system,” said Gary Hamby, Western regional director of the Federal Highway Administration.
He told engineers and planners at the third National Seismic Conference on Monday that the highway administration is working with the Office of Homeland Security and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to assess the vulnerability of bridges and overpasses during the next three to six months.
Hamby said the national highway system must be able to adapt not only to natural disasters such as quakes, but also acts of terrorism that could disrupt transportation and seriously damage the economy.
“It’s an extraordinary challenge,” Hamby said, “but safety is our top concern.”
Roland Nimis, Western infrastructure chief for the highway administration, opened the conference by saying earthquakes around the world have taught bridge engineers many valuable lessons since the last conference was held in 1997.
The 6.8 magnitude Nisqually earthquake near Seattle on Feb. 28, 2001, gave engineers one of their best looks at how well older U.S. bridge designs withstand seismic shock.