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How safe are Nevada bridges? Which local one is ‘structurally deficient’?

Updated April 1, 2024 - 7:16 pm

Tragic events such as the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsing last week after being struck by a cargo ship are reminders of the importance of infrastructure and safety measures surrounding it.

The Nevada Department of Transportation is tasked with surveying and maintaining the nearly 2,100 public bridges in the state — a task the department doesn’t take lightly.

“The Nevada Department of Transportation expresses its deepest condolences to all those impacted by the recent collapse of Maryland’s Francis Scott Key Bridge,” NDOT spokesman Justin Hopkins said in a statement. “This tragic event underscores the importance of ensuring the safety and integrity of our transportation infrastructure.”

NDOT has a dedicated team focused on everything from planning and administration to engineering, construction and maintenance, according to the statement. Through year-round programs for bridge inspections and rehabilitation, Nevada’s bridges have consistently ranked among the nation’s best, according to NDOT.

“Approximately 99 percent of Nevada’s over 2,000 public bridges are rated in fair or good condition,” Hopkins noted. “Reflecting NDOT’s ongoing efforts in infrastructure maintenance.”

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association releases an annual report with data tied to each state’s bridge health. Its latest report from 2023 shows the Silver State has the second-safest bridges in the U.S., behind only Arizona.

Of the 2,090 bridges in the Silver State, 25 are classified as structurally deficient, meaning one of the major elements of the structure was in poor condition. Of those, just one of the most-traveled structurally deficient bridges is located in Clark County — the Paradise Road bridge over the Tropicana wash. The stretch sees 36,000 daily crossings, according to ARTBA’s report.

The $305 million Interstate 15-Tropicana Avenue project that began in 2022 includes various upgrades to the freeway and surface roads in the area, including a bridge safety element. Built in the 1960s, the Tropicana bridge over I-15 was shorter than current federal requirements, leading to the structure being hit multiple times by semi-trucks.

The rebuilding of Tropicana bridge over I-15 not only addresses adding capacity and pedestrian enhancements, but also works to bring the structure up to federal code.

“The reconstruction of the Tropicana Ave overpass over I-15 addresses federal height requirements and damage from multiple high-profile vehicle collisions,” Hopkins said. “The Tropicana bridge is being rebuilt taller, wider, and longer to safeguard against future vehicle strikes.”

NDOT in 2022 completed the $40 million U.S. Highway 95 viaduct rehabilitation project, which increased the safety and resilience of the elevated freeway structures downtown and saw the reconstruction of bridges over Eastern Avenue and Desert Inn Road along U.S. 95.

Further down I-15, crews also are addressing issues at the Apex interchange just north of Las Vegas, where multiple strikes occur annually.

“That project includes the lowering of Las Vegas Blvd under I-15 to increase clearance under the bridge,” Hopkins said.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on X. Send questions and comments to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com.

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