Inspecting bridges in Hawaii

When I saw the news headline, “Half of state’s bridges fall short of standards“, it reminded me of my first college internship, working for the Hawaii State Dept of Transportation. One of my duties as an engineering intern was to perform high-level bridge inspections. Basically, we weren’t trained bridge inspectors, but we could provide structural insight on areas of failure or gross neglect. This article talks about how Hawaii bridges are not meeting federal standards… and how they haven’t been meeting standards for years. I think that’s a little overblown though. The bridges aren’t going to fall down, but apparently they aren’t as good as they should be. When I was inspecting those bridges in 1997, what I most remember was that there were cracks everywhere in the concrete…. which is expected from a 50 year old bridge. I’m sure the federal inspectors are finding some of the same cracks I saw…. which is probably what caused them to get a failing grade, since you can’t expect concrete to not have some stress cracks in it. It’s a tough job inspecting bridges, with the unknown people, rodents, and other things found in the dark, damp underworld of concrete crevasses. I wouldn’t want to do it again, but for one summer, it was a fun experience.

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