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Collapse an opportunity to reassess bridge safety
MediaNews via CoCoTimes ^ | 4/30/7 | Ian Hoffman

Posted on 04/30/2007 10:09:45 AM PDT by SmithL

Burning down a freeway is not easy.

But set off enough high-octane fuel at the wrong place and even multiton supporting steel girders turn wobbly as a chocolate bar in the sun. That is what a speeding gasoline trucker managed to do before dawn Sunday to the busiest interchange in Northern California.

Authorities still are piecing together how one of the 18-wheelers traversing the Bay daily crashed and erupted into a fireball that collapsed one freeway onto another at untold disruption to regional traffic.

Miraculously, no one plunged into the inferno, the void it left behind or the debris below. But some experts think the incident calls for a review of heat and blast vulnerability for critical interstate spans.

"This time we were lucky," said UC Berkeley civil engineering professor and steel bridge expert Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl. "This is a wake-up call for major bridges."

State officials pinned blame on driver James Mosqueda, 51, and his employer, and they suggested the state was moving rapidly to rebuild the damaged portions of Interstates 580 and 880 more or less as they were built 50 years ago.

The episode was a freakish "anomaly," according to Will Kempton, head of Caltrans.

But fiery tanker crashes have collapsed freeways in Philadelphia and Boston, and now homeland-security analysts fear copy-cat terrorist attacks.

The burning tanker at the MacArthur Maze released over three hours about the same energy as the split-second detonation of 200 tons of TNT, equal to an extremely low-yield atomic bomb.

"It certainly is a message of something we should be concerned about, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out," said David McCallen, a senior executive at Lawrence Livermore Lab's nonproliferation and homeland-security directorate.

The light, flexible steel spans of the MacArthur Maze survived the 1989 Loma Prieta quake that pancaked the Cypress Freeway, which was made of stiff concrete.

But at 3:41 a.m. Sunday, Mosqueda flipped and ruptured his tanker at almost precisely the Achilles' heel of the arching skyways -- the underside of the pier where thin, supporting steel girders are unprotected by concrete or anything else, according to UC Berkeley's Astaneh-Asl.

"I think this was really the perfect fire, tragically," said Astaneh-Asl, who studied the MacArthur Maze intensely after the earthquake.

The extent of Mosqueda's fuel load was unclear Sunday. But at least 8,600 gallons of unleaded gasoline ignited in a continuous roar -- more fuel than burned inside the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001 -- and turned the 20-foot space between I-880, where Mosqueda crashed into a guard rail, and the I-580 overhead into an oven that roasted the exposed steel girders to more than 2,000 degrees.

At 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, steel in girders and bolts goes soft, said Astaneh-Asl, who studied the collapse of World Trade Center towers for the National Science Foundation.

"When steel gets that warm, it loses its strength and cannot carry its load any more," he said. "It's not to say the steel melted. Some portions may have melted, but the steel got soft, like rubber."

Other experts say structural failure can come at even lower temperatures.

"The bottom line is this kind of thing can happen," said Forman Williams, a pre-eminent combustion expert at UC San Diego, who was tapped by the federal government to explain the World Trade Center collapse. "It is a rare event, but all of these are rare events, and the more of these you can protect against, the better off you are. ... You don't know until you do the study."

Caltrans officials dismissed the notion Sunday of fireproofing freeway stilts and bridges. Astaneh-Asl said roadways really cannot be fireproofed like buildings, partly because of vibration.

But he suggested that some of California's most critical bridges and interchanges might deserve the extra expense of coating exposed steel girders in a few inches of concrete.

That coating might cost 5 percent to 10 percent of the construction cost for the bridge but be enough to delay collapse for two hours, perhaps enough time to cool or extinguish a fuel fire.

"From an accidental standpoint, these are definitely rare events," said Livermore's McCallen. "But I think this will probably elicit some additional debate within the (engineering) community about whether something more for fire is needed.

"It's certainly something that people who worry about homeland security should keep at the forefront of what they're thinking about."


TOPICS: Editorial; Government; US: California
KEYWORDS: baybridge; inferno
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1 posted on 04/30/2007 10:09:47 AM PDT by SmithL
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I'll go first:

Bush's Fault!

2 posted on 04/30/2007 10:10:32 AM PDT by SmithL (si vis pacem, para bellum)
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To: SmithL
But...but...I thought the 9/11 conspiracy guys said burning fuel couldn't melt steel and concrete!
3 posted on 04/30/2007 10:17:42 AM PDT by chaosagent (Remember, no matter how you slice it, forbidden fruit still tastes the sweetest!)
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To: SmithL
et off enough high-octane fuel at the wrong place

What does the octane level have to do with it?

Gasoline has a lot of energy. That's why we power automobiles with it.

4 posted on 04/30/2007 10:21:37 AM PDT by Jeff Chandler (Peace Begins in the Womb)
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To: chaosagent

Rosie O’Donnell should be hired to supervise rebuilding the bridge. She is knowledgeable about physics and engineering. She will be able to assess how to build the bridge to resist such accidents in the future.

While we’re on the subject, what’s with these tanker trucks full of flammable products going down the freeway? What has the Bush administration done to promote truck safety? Has Hillary weighed in yet on this?


5 posted on 04/30/2007 10:25:40 AM PDT by Dilbert San Diego
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To: chaosagent
Obviously this was a controlled demolition orchestrated by Karl Rove and Co.
6 posted on 04/30/2007 10:26:28 AM PDT by yobid (Help Wanted Inquire Within)
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To: SmithL
But set off enough high-octane fuel at the wrong place and even multiton supporting steel girders turn wobbly as a chocolate bar in the sun.

Anybody have bull dyke lez Rosie's email address? I'd like to send this to her.

7 posted on 04/30/2007 10:37:34 AM PDT by upchuck (Jesus Christ and the American Soldier: One died for your soul; the other for your freedom.)
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To: SmithL
James Mosqueda

Hmmmmmm.

8 posted on 04/30/2007 10:41:07 AM PDT by dfwgator (The University of Florida - Still Championship U)
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To: Jeff Chandler
What does the octane level have to do with it?

Yeah. I really wish these reporters could resist the urge to get technical when they are totally clueless. Just tell us who, what, where, why and when, to the best of your limited ability.

Unfortunately, there will be more of these articles written and they will only get worse as they try to out-do each other.

No doubt some idiot will propose banning the transfer of fuel on the highways.

9 posted on 04/30/2007 10:42:25 AM PDT by keat (You know who I feel bad for? Arab-Americans who truly want to get into crop-dusting.)
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To: SmithL
State officials pinned blame on driver James Mosqueda, 51, and his employer, and they suggested the state was moving rapidly to rebuild the damaged portions of Interstates 580 and 880 more or less as they were built 50 years ago.

The episode was a freakish "anomaly," according to Will Kempton, head of Caltrans.

No, it wasn't. It was a simple case of a trucker hauling a dangerous load who was going too fast and lost control of his rig.

10 posted on 04/30/2007 10:43:35 AM PDT by Penner
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To: Dilbert San Diego
Rosie O’Donnell should be hired to supervise rebuilding the bridge. She is knowledgeable about physics and engineering. She will be able to assess how to build the bridge to resist such accidents in the future.

She can also test it's support by walking on it.

11 posted on 04/30/2007 10:45:16 AM PDT by BulletBobCo
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To: SmithL

We *clearly* need a Congressional investigation into bridge safety! Subpoena everyone in the Bush Administration you can!

(I give it two days before some nitwit demonrat is actually calling for a Congressional investigation and subpoenaing the Transportation Secretary.)


12 posted on 04/30/2007 10:45:51 AM PDT by bolobaby
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To: Dilbert San Diego
What has the Bush administration done to promote truck safety?

They are working to allow Mexican trucks and drivers to go anywhere in the US.

13 posted on 04/30/2007 10:47:09 AM PDT by omega4412 (Multiculturalism kills. 9/11, Beslan, Madrid, London, Salt Lake City)
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To: yobid

yes it was planned by Karl Rove. This was done to show that even a relatively small explosion can cause the steel to lose strength and collapse. It was all done to embarrass Rosie O’Donnell.


14 posted on 04/30/2007 10:50:38 AM PDT by Dilbert San Diego
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To: Penner
This was an accident. Now imagine a couple of homocide bombers sitting in the drivers cab of gas rigs and going at a high speed for our freeways' choke points and then exploding the tankers. With a couple of well planned punches, Islamofascists could wreck our national economy by rendering much of our national highway network useless for months or even years. This accident has revealed a vulnerability for committed terrorists to exploit - and we can't protect ALL of our freeway choke points.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus

15 posted on 04/30/2007 10:51:42 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: chaosagent

If you think about it at all, it’s much easier to “melt” steel in a closed building with a much lower safety marging than a highway overpass.

And the steel in the WTC didn’t melt, it went into “yeild”, leading to catastrophic failure.


16 posted on 04/30/2007 11:00:22 AM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets ("We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.")
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To: SmithL

"OK, ok, the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eight, ....


17 posted on 04/30/2007 11:03:48 AM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets ("We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.")
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To: SmithL

The great structural materials engineering expert, Rosie O’Donuts, couldn’t be contacted...


18 posted on 04/30/2007 11:08:10 AM PDT by JRios1968 (This tagline brought to you by courtesy of Happygrl)
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To: SmithL

I have irrefutable scientific proof < SPITTLE> that THAT BRIDGE WAS DESTROYED BY EXPLOSIVE CHARGES PLANTED BY THE CHENEY ADMINISTRATION AS A PRETEXT TO PUSH US IN WAR!!!!!!!!! < /SPITTLE>

19 posted on 04/30/2007 11:12:12 AM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets ("We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.")
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To: Penner

Really, the amazing thing is that horrendous accidents involving gasoline tankers don’t happen more often. When you consider how many of them are on the road at any given time, and just how dangerous a tanker truck full of gasoline is, they’re really involved in very few incidents. The companies that own and operate gasoline tankers tend to be very safety-minded. When an accident does happen, however, they do tend to be pretty spectacular!


20 posted on 04/30/2007 11:19:07 AM PDT by -YYZ-
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To: BulletBobCo

Nah... just find out the material used in her upsidedown hanging straps, and we can have a suspension bridge up really quick!


21 posted on 04/30/2007 11:52:49 AM PDT by Elsie (Heck is where people, who don't believe in Gosh, think they are not going...)
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To: SmithL
"This time we were lucky," said UC Berkeley civil engineering professor and steel bridge expert Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl. "This is a wake-up call for major bridges."

HMMmmm...


22 posted on 04/30/2007 11:55:12 AM PDT by Elsie (Heck is where people, who don't believe in Gosh, think they are not going...)
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To: SmithL
But at 3:41 a.m. Sunday, Mosqueda flipped and ruptured his tanker at almost precisely the Achilles' heel of the arching skyways -- the underside of the pier where thin, supporting steel girders are unprotected by concrete or anything else, according to UC Berkeley's Astaneh-Asl.

But WHY should it have hit a PIER???

Why are there not vertical walls along these roads at critical points??

No harsh impact, just a sliding along.

After all, they've installed stuff like this on racetracks!


East bound I-70 in Utah, where it comes down off of the San Rafael Swell, the inner lane wall appears to be over 8 foot tall!

23 posted on 04/30/2007 12:00:20 PM PDT by Elsie (Heck is where people, who don't believe in Gosh, think they are not going...)
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets

LOL!!

Thanks for that reminder of the low caliber of our public education system.

[That, too, is Bush’s fault, of course; his collaboration with Ted Kennedy on NCLB notwithstanding.]


24 posted on 04/30/2007 1:08:05 PM PDT by HKMk23 (We are good, not because we are not tempted, but because we are tempted yet choose to be good.)
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To: -YYZ-

Sabak Transportation had another rollover last June in Vallejo, CA. 4500 gallons into a creek.


25 posted on 04/30/2007 1:11:34 PM PDT by B4Ranch ("Steer clear of entangling alliances with any portion of the foreign world." -George Washington-)
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To: Penner
Authorities still are piecing together how one of the 18-wheelers traversing the Bay daily crashed and erupted into a fireball that collapsed one freeway onto another at untold disruption to regional traffic.

I've gone through some of those turns quite a number of times in my life on the trips to and from my brother's place in Berkeley, and they're pretty hair-raising and adrenalin-pumping if you're not completely focused on driving at or below the recommended speeds.

It's not that hard to piece together. If the driver was unfamiliar with the lay of those roads, I can't bring myself to condemn him a whole heck of a lot. I've left a skid-mark or two on those ramps myself, though I wasn't hauling more than 17 gallons of gasoline at the time. The ramps are quite fun on a motorcycle, though.

26 posted on 04/30/2007 1:27:17 PM PDT by mvpel (Michael Pelletier)
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To: SmithL
If there is any conspiracy it is by the unions. Now just another pork barrel spending project that will have all the funds sucked up by COLA increases...
OR
It was done by the global warming fanatics...time to start walking and or riding your bikes to work....just think of all the carbon credits one can save up...
27 posted on 04/30/2007 1:52:30 PM PDT by Fred (Looking Forward to Impeaching the OTHER Clinton)
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To: SmithL

fortunately this accident by a bozo speeding driver is not expected to do much damage to California GDP.

But does anyone else find it strange the bad guys haven’t tried this yet as these days it is much easier to hijack a gas truck than a plane. if osama didn’t have such a fixation with planes...

the damage to the economy that could be done by a few well placed trucks in major metro areas is incalculable. and one would think it wouldn’t be too difficult for middle easterners to find employment in the oil industry here.

at the very least there should be some sort of driver screening for hazmat trucks equivalent to whatever is required of those morons at the airport.


28 posted on 04/30/2007 1:52:37 PM PDT by KingofZion
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To: -YYZ-
I remember what happened here near DC when a rig with ~30,000LBS of gasoline went over the guardrail on 895 landed on 95 and exploded on impact. Overnight they had replaced the pavement on all four lanes, fortunately the bridge was not damaged, although later they did change the lane markings.

This accident had the afternoon rush messed up horribly as the accident happened at ~2:00 PM. I remember smelling the smoke, not thinking much of it, untill I heard on the radio what the cause was, then getting caught in the traffic trying to bypass the closed road (both directions of 95 were closed) and I was over 20 miles away, north of the accident, traveling north.

Speculation at the time was speeding and asleep at the wheel as causes, never did hear the official verdict.

29 posted on 04/30/2007 2:16:25 PM PDT by Fraxinus (My opinion worth what you paid.)
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