Can crews inspect 1,000 bridges in 24 hours after an earthquake?

Can crews inspect 1,000 bridges in 24 hours after an earthquake?

EUGENE, Ore. -- A Lane County bridge inspector peers underneath a bridge on Lone Pine Drive.

He checks the bridge joints.  They're fine. 

He moves to the columns and sees it: a piece of paper duct taped to the top of one pyle.

The inspector makes a note, then returns to his truck to radio in the find.

"A concrete pyle, crushed and bulging reinforcing bars," he says. "Recommending closure.  No alternate route."

The paper represents structural damage to a bridge in the emergency inspection drill that played out Tuesday. 

Crews from Cottage Grove, Eugene, Springfield, Lane County and the Oregon Department of Transportation set out to physically around 100 bridges in the county to test their emergency preparedness plan.

After a major earthquake, crews would be dispatched to visually inspect every one of the more than 1,000 bridges in Lane County to see which are safe to drive on and which would be shut down because of damage. The plan calls for all inspections to take place within 24 hours.

"The main thing is how long it takes to inspect all the bridges we have to inspect and see if it's realistic that we can do it," explained Mike Russell, senior engineering associate with Lane County's Department of Public Works.

Public Works department crews focused on the main route bridges in the county Tuesday.  They examined bridge joints, columns and decks while looking for possible damage like cracks, splitting or structural movement.

Each department planned to debrief their crews separately following the drill.