Syracuse Bridge Collapsed Just 13 Months After It Passed Inspection With Cracks

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On July 5, two 60-foot decorative portions of the rail bridge over West Onondaga Street collapsed, raining concrete onto the road below. The debris barely missed passing cars driving on Clinton Street. Each section was 43 feet long, six feet tall, and weighed roughly 30 tons.

Just 13 months prior to the collapse, an inspection was completed on May 30, 2017. The inspection found flaking and cracking in the bridge’s sidewalls, according to records obtained from Syracuse.com and The Post-Standard.

The inspector was hired by the railroad and passed the inspection stating the bridge was in “fair to good” condition, despite the cracking and flaking. The bridge has the structural capacity to safely carry traffic, according to the inspector.

Some officials have blamed the extreme heat for the collapse. Engineers studying the collapse said that it was caused by “thermal expansion of the concrete and steel.”

The day after the collapse, it was 92.2 degrees Fahrenheit in the city, capping a five-day stretch of high temperatures. It was the hottest start to July in Syracuse in 107 years.

Typically, iron ore melts at 2,750 degrees Fahrenheit, while steel typically has a melting points of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. It seems that a combination of the weak structure, hot temperatures, and humid atmosphere lead to the collapse.

When the inspection was completed last year, 35 other bridge sections in the Syracuse area were inspected as well. Three has mentions of cracked or flaked “fascia” of sidewalls. Fifteen other bridges inspected has noticeably cracked concrete, according to the report by the inspector.

The railroad company is required to send the inspection reports to the Federal Railroad Administration. In a letter to U.S. Rep John Katko, an engineer with the FRA said the railroad had met all the inspection requirements. Immediately after the collapse, city officials requested to see the inspection reports.

According to Greg Loh, spokesman for Mayor Ben Walsh’s office, the city has received the reports and is now reviewing them.