Green Room

Video: Bridges tend to collapse when trains run into them

posted at 11:30 am on May 26, 2013 by

A good pro-tip from CBS News on the second major bridge failure in the past week, this time in Missouri.  However, this overpass was only 15 years old and rated in “good” condition — or at least it was, until the nation’s second train derailment in less than two weeks sent several cars barreling into its supports:

A Missouri highway overpass that partially collapsed when rail cars smashed into one of its support pillars after a cargo train collision was about 15 years old and in good condition but just couldn’t withstand the impact, a sheriff said. …

NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said while the investigations into both collapses are in the early stages “there is no similarity” between the Missouri accident and the bridge collapse in Washington, which sent two vehicles and three people falling into the chilly water.

He noted that the Missouri bridge was rated “good” after its last inspection in February.

“This was not because of any lack of integrity of the bridge in southeast Missouri, but because of a train that derailed and had a bunch of rail cars slamming around,” he said.

However, there may be something a little more unusual about that first derailment in Connecticut that injured 70 people. According to the Associated Press, the track in that section had just been repaired or maintained a month earlier, and an engineer now tells investigators that he spotted what they are calling an “unusual condition” on the tracks just before the derailment:

The engineer of the commuter train that derailed last week in Connecticut observed an “unusual condition” on the track before the wreck, federal officials said Friday without explaining what the condition was, though they did say repair work was done last month in the area of the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board has previously ruled out foul play but it has not yet determined a cause of the May 17 crash that injured more than 70 people and disrupted service for days on the railroad used by tens of thousands of commuters north of New York City.

But the NTSB did say Friday that a joint bar, used to hold two sections of rail together, had been cracked and repaired last month and that rail sections in the area of the derailment have been shipped to Washington for further examination. Adam Lisberg, an Metropolitan Transit Authority spokesman, said the joint bar was replaced.

Perhaps the repair was performed badly, an attorney representing a half-dozen of the victims speculates:

It’s not clear what caused the crash but repair work done in the area weeks before it may have weakened the track, George Cahill, an attorney representing six Metro-North workers injured in the crash, said this week. He also expressed concern that wheels on the new trains were too tight.

We’ll see. One lawsuit has already been filed on behalf of a woman still in critical condition from the derailment, and the MTA is inspecting all of its joint bars. That tends to speed investigations a bit.

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Perhaps the repair was performed badly, an attorney representing a half-dozen of the victims speculates:

Replacing a rail joint bar ain’t rocket science.

More like a lawyer lookin’ for a quick payday.

cozmo on May 26, 2013 at 11:36 AM

It’s all the fault of those republicans.

The Rogue Tomato on May 26, 2013 at 11:41 AM

NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said while the investigations into both collapses are in the early stages “there is no similarity” between the Missouri accident and the bridge collapse in Washington, which sent two vehicles and three people falling into the chilly water.

“there is no similarity”?!?!?!?

Both collapses (WA and MO) were due to vehicular impact to critical supporting bridge members.

When even the NTSB takes political spin as gospel, how can we trust any fed agency?

Sheesh.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on May 26, 2013 at 11:51 AM

This being CT it wouldn’t surprise if some kids got bored and decided to sabatage the tracks to see what would happen.

warren on May 26, 2013 at 12:03 PM

But it was a GOP train and it was taking stimulus money from infrastructure.

Cindy Munford on May 26, 2013 at 12:29 PM

Having trains and heavy trucks running into bridges is really not the ideal situation for longevity, but you will never stop the liberals from blaming someone else for the problems. As I recall some of that stimulus money was for bridge repair, and again, after the sticky fingers got into the pot nothing was left for the repairs.

savage24 on May 26, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Now that journalists have their LexisNexis filters properly set, we are going to hear about every accident involving a bridge over the next 90 days or so. This is going to be the “summer of bridges” just like that “summer of shark attacks” several years ago. In that case, even though the number of shark attacks were below the annual average, we heard about every single one for a while and it made it seem like the beaches were a great white feeding frenzy.

crosspatch on May 26, 2013 at 1:11 PM

What you won’t see in the summer of bridges is the fact that states are required to inspect and report on bridges, but they don’t have the funding to repair/replace them. Well, you will hear that, but they won’t tell you the money went to researching shrimp on treadmills, lesbians who gain more weight, and a squirrel’s ability to cross a road safely instead of the infrastructure repair.

hazchic on May 26, 2013 at 4:16 PM

Obviously the Sequester(tm) caused this, so it “Republican caused disaster”. Wasn’t George W. Bush spotted at the bridge shortly before the train hit the bridge? s/o

simkeith on May 26, 2013 at 4:58 PM

BOOOOOOOOSH!

SagebrushPuppet on May 26, 2013 at 5:29 PM

Bridges tend to collapse when trains run into them

Lol, at last someone noticed, there was a train crash involved. None other than our own Ed!

petefrt on May 26, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Tracks repaired but something still wrong?

Two unusual crashes, eight days apart?

Coincidences? Hmmm…

Midas on May 26, 2013 at 7:36 PM

Because I am Public-Spirited…I am perfectly willing to check out pretty much ANY number of “Joint Bars”…I’d like to start in the hi end ones and move onto the Topless Joints……

I am willing to do this for a really only a small per Diem….I should be able to check out 5 Joints/Bars per week on about $2,500 plus room and taxi money….I probably need some of that in singles.

JFKY on May 26, 2013 at 8:38 PM

C’mon! Doncha know Obama’s already determined to spend more and gigantic more on ‘infrastructure’?

More importantly how can this be blamed on Repub’s Sequestration?

Sir Napsalot on May 27, 2013 at 8:56 AM

gravity sucks! funny thing you hit a structural support with a heavy vehicle (i.e. train cars or semi trailers) and gravity does its thing. Not rocket science

JKotthoff on May 27, 2013 at 10:34 AM

…was it Union workers who did the repairs?

KOOLAID2 on May 27, 2013 at 11:37 AM

JFKY on May 26, 2013 at 8:38 PM

Heh.

GWB on May 27, 2013 at 1:58 PM

But it was a GOP train and it was taking stimulus money from infrastructure.

Cindy Munford on May 26, 2013 at 12:29 PM

.
Cindy’s got it ….. nothing more to add.

listens2glenn on May 28, 2013 at 1:16 AM

The bridge in Washington State that collapsed had an out-of-control truck hit its truss structure on the side of the roadway. From the videos of that bridge, it was very poorly designed for a bridge built for an Interstate highway, which carries cars and trucks at high speeds. The support structure under the roadway had thick beams across the traffic flow, but rather thin and weak beams parallel to the traffic flow, between the concrete pilings. This meant that most of the resistance to downward bending of the roadway (i.e. collapse) along the axis parallel to the flow of traffic was provided by the truss structure along the sides of the roadway. This worked fine as long as the truss structure was intact, but once the trusses are weakened by a truck impact, the structure under the roadway could not support the weight of the roadway and the vehicles on it.

Most bridges built for Interstate highways have all the load-bearing structures BELOW the roadway (where they cannot be affected by vehicle impacts), and thick longitudinal beams (parallel to the flow of traffic) which resist bending better than cross-members (which are subjected to less bending moment). For very long bridges, suspension bridges can also be used, but a vehicle impact would only take out a few support cables, and the load would be distributed to the remaining intact cables without provoking a collapse.

But since the Washington State bridge was built in 1955, it must be Ike’s fault, since he was a Republican. By the way, was the Governor of Washington State in 1955 a Democrat?

Steve Z on May 28, 2013 at 10:24 AM

A Missouri highway overpass that partially collapsed when rail cars smashed into one of its support pillars after a cargo train collision was about 15 years old and in good condition but just couldn’t withstand the impact, a sheriff said.

I would have flunked English 101 if I had ever submitted a sentence like that!

Seabecker on May 28, 2013 at 11:43 AM