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Another Bridge Collapses in Italy

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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Last week, Italian officials reported that a bridge serving the A10 motorway on a portion that connects parts of Liguria and Tuscany in Aulla, Italy, collapsed while two drivers were crossing the infrastructure.

While no fatalities from the incident have been reported, scrutiny about the conditions of the country’s road bridges continue to increase since the collapse of the Morandi Bridge.

Morandi Bridge Collapse

Late in the morning on Aug. 14, 2018, lightning struck the Morandi Bridge. At the time, 35-mile-per-hour winds were recorded with a thunderstorm moving through the area. A 200-meter (656-foot) section of the prestressed concrete span collapsed, creating a gulf between two sections of the bridge.

The cable-stayed concrete bridge, also known as the Polcevera Viaduct, completed in 1968, was designed by Italian civil engineer Riccardo Morandi. According to the website Retrofutur, the bridge is characterized, as are other Morandi structures, by thin prestressed concrete girders and relatively few stays. Three A-shaped concrete pylons held four prestressed stays apiece. The website has chronicled numerous projects over the years to reinforce the structure, including steel sheaths over the concrete pylons.

While experts believe that structural weakness and decaying steel rods contributed to the collapse, previous warnings about the condition of the bridge were issued years before disaster struck. For example, in 2012, the leader of Genoa's business federation noted that the bridge could collapse within 10 years. In 2011, a report from Autostrade per l'Italia, the operator of the A10 highway that ran over the bridge, warned of intense decay.

As for the legal case surrounding the disaster, 71 people were accused, ranging from managers to civil servants, involving more than 100 lawyers, 120 experts and 75 witnesses.

In February, officials announced that work on the bridge’s replacement had surpassed the halfway mark, with 16 of the 18 40-meter-high (131 feet) columns—which are partially sunk 50 meters into the ground—were constructed and seven out of 19 deck sections were laid into place.

Recent Bridge Collapse

According to reports, although virtually no traffic has been reported to be crossing the bridge due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, while two truck drivers were passing through the structure, the bridge gave way around roughly 10:25 a.m. local time.

As a result of the collapse, one driver was hit by a piece of falling masonry, while a second driver appeared to be unscathed, but suffered from shock. Both individuals were taken to a nearby hospital.

When the collapse occurred, residents living in the area claimed to have heard a loud bang and sounds of tumbling masonry. In aftermath photos of the incident, part of the bridge collapsed into the Magra river below, buckling portions of the road.

Prior to its collapse, the concrete structure was reported to measure some 400 meters (1,300 feet) in length and stood roughly 8 meters high. According to the fire brigade team who responded to the incident, debris from the concrete bridge dated back to 1908, while the structure was reportedly rebuilt after World War II.

In following the news of the accident, it was soon discovered that back in November, various motorists had reported a crack in the bridge following a period of severe weather. Local Mayor Roberto Valettini also reported that he had written three letters regarding potential safety issues to the bridge operator.

However, reports claim that the bridge was later repaired, inspected by technicians and reopened.

Previously, the bridge was managed by local authorities in Massa Carrara—the province on the Tuscany side—but was later placed under the control of ANAS—a firm run by state-owned railway group Ferrovie dello Stato—in 2018.

"It's a sheer stroke of luck that a collapse hasn't turned into a tragedy—because of a lack of traffic caused by the coronavirus emergency," said Michele de Pascale, head of the Italian provinces union UPI.

Since the incident, de Micheli has requested a detailed report from ANAS on the infrastructure’s health prior to the incident.

Thus far, ANAS has reported in a statement that the infrastructure has gone under periodic safety controls since 2019, and that the company has since formed a ad-hoc group to investigate the cause of the collapse.

The transportation ministry is slated to issue a report on the findings in 30 days.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Bridges; EU; Europe; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Project Management; Safety

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