State inspecting 5 bridges similar to collapsed Minneapolis span

WHITE PINE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee highway officials said Friday that inspections will be stepped up on an Interstate 40 bridge in Jefferson County already slated for replacement that shares the same deck truss design as the bridge that collapsed this week in Minnesota.

The 2,416-foot span over the French Broad River, about 40 miles east of Knoxville, is one of five bridges in the state getting a re-inspection because of the Minneapolis tragedy Wednesday that killed at least five people.

"We want to see the outcome of the investigation in Minneapolis," Paul Degges, chief engineer at the Tennessee Department of Transportation, told a news conference held on the I-40 bridge.

"Until we get that report we've made a determination we are going to put this bridge on an annual inspection cycle. We are going to double up on this bridge," he said.

National standards require bridges to be inspected every two years. Degges said more frequent inspections are performed if problems surface.

The four-lane I-40 bridge, which opened in 1960 and carries some 57,000 vehicles a day, is rated as deficient, though structurally sound, because of a deteriorating road deck.

Planning is under way to replace the bridge in 3 to 5 years for around $34 million.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)