Skip to comments.Bay Area bridge collapse offers lessons
Posted on 05/01/2007 5:57:23 AM PDT by BenLurkin
SAN FRANCISCO - The experts paid to worry about disasters and terrorism have for years warned of collapsing highway bridges and exploding tanker trucks. They just never foresaw one event that would encompass both. Nonsense
Local, state and federal government officials have "war gamed" a failed San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge again and again, most recently in November, when a statewide exercise envisioned a 7.9-magnitude earthquake bringing down part of the span.
The drills proved useful in responding to Sunday's wreck in which a tanker truck struck a guardrail, overturned and burst into flames, taking down a critical overpass. To some officials, the accident produced a best-case outcome, yielding potentially valuable lessons at little human cost.
"It's almost your perfect tabletop exercise real pristine, clean, and nobody got hurt," California Highway Patrol Officer Mike Wright said.
The snarled highways envisioned for the region didn't materialize Monday, as many commuters seized on free public transportation, avoided rush hour or just stayed home.
While crews sifted through the wreckage, outside experts did their own analysis. In one line of inquiry that could improve future responses, some scientists were studying linkages between the freeway collapse and how the World Trade Center came down on Sept. 11, 2001.
The structural failures appear similar, said David McCallen, division leader in nonproliferation, homeland and international security at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
The steel supporting the overpass turned pliable after the gasoline-fed fire below reached temperatures up to 2,000 degrees more than four times as hot as the hottest conventional home oven.
The big difference between a blast and a fire is the fire takes time, "which gives you the potential or the option of responding," McCallen said. In this case, it makes sense to look at better ways to douse fuel-based fires, McCallen said.
Hard lessons gleaned from other past disasters also were being applied as engineers prepared for reconstruction. The downed overpass, a vital artery linking San Francisco and its eastern suburbs, carries some 80,000 vehicles a day. Inspectors X-rayed about a dozen pillars supporting the ramp near the collapsed section to see if they could be salvaged.
Originally built in the 1950s, the collapsed roadway was retrofitted to withstand earthquake damage in the late 1990s. But rather than rebuild the ramp according to already existing blueprints, engineers will likely overhaul the interchange to conform to today's more stringent seismic standards, California Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Weiss said.
"Whenever you can start from scratch, you do so," Weiss said.
The incident and its aftermath also raised new questions about those behind the wheel of big trucks, such as the man hauling 8,600 gallons of unleaded gasoline during the crash.
While the government screens the thousands of truck drivers who haul hazardous materials around the country most recently requiring that they undergo FBI and intelligence background checks it was unclear whether the system worked in the case of tanker driver James Mosqueda.
Court records show that Mosqueda had a criminal record that included convictions for heroin possession and burglary. Yet apparently all the paperwork for him to get his trucking license was in order, the California Highway Patrol said.
An initial investigation revealed that the truck may have been speeding, but drugs and alcohol were not suspected as factors in the crash, CHP Officer Trent Cross said.
Mosqueda had recently renewed his commercial driver's license and his driving record was free of any crashes or violations before Sunday, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
City officials quickly called for a policy review Monday. "Someone with that record has no business driving hazardous materials on our highways," state Assemblyman Pedro Nava said.
Transportation Security Administration rules require a five-year waiting period after a convict is released from prison until he or she can qualify to haul hazardous materials. Since Mosqueda was released in 2001, he became eligible in 2006. However, under TSA rules, multiple felony convictions can also permanently disqualify many drivers.
After the crash, Mosqueda, 51, wandered more than a mile through darkened streets in Oakland with second-degree burns to a gas station and hailed a cab to take him to the emergency room, according to police and the taxi driver.
Mosqueda had been a driver for his current employer, Sabek Transportation, for about 10 months when the crash occurred, said CHP Officer Trent Cross.
Several calls to Sabek by The Associated Press were either hung up on or forwarded to a voicemail box for Tom Saberi, who has previously been listed as an attorney for the company. Saberi did not return any messages.
Lesson One: Fire melts steel.
(Got that, Rosie?)
March 2004: There was a bridge collapse very similar on I-95 in Connecticut. Tanker truck, fire, bridge collapse.
The US needs stricter laws concerning CDL drivers and Hazmat endorsements. I have a CDL and over 10 years i have hired many drivers, offhand about 1/4th have some criminal history or drug problems.
But more importantly its newly arrived foreigners wanting to drive tankers, school busses and long haul rigs. There was recent news even of a tour bus operation that was a front for drug smuggling, anything in commercial vehicles is an opening for illegal activities more so now than years past.
Not a jetliner but a single truck practically shut down or at least bottlenecked millions, who is to say they are not or could be herded into another area just for a preplanned attack? like detonatong a device on Bart under the bay?
Any incident like this becomes another page of a terrorists teaching manual.
in 1994 here on Long Island (NY), a doctor, who use to like to drive the HOV lane alone but with his large dog in the passenger seat, saw a cop up ahead and cut across several lanes to get out of the carpool lane. he drove right into a gasoline tanker which burst into flames under the overpass for the Sagtikos parkway. the doctor and dog died. the tanker driver got out in time. the overpass was so warped as to have to be condemned and rebuilt. the north bound overpass (separate) was divided for a short time for both directions untill an temporary span could be erected. It took a good 9 months or more before the section of span was completely rebuilt.
Well, I'm sure this is going to come as a huge surprise to one of our celebrity structural engineers, Ms. Rosie O'Donnell.
(Got that, Rosie?)”
The timing is suspicious. Just when when the Rosies of the world are talking up the fire can’t melt steel idea; what happens?
Has to be a Haliburton, Bush/Cheney, Reagan/Bush, Republican capitalist plot to throw the attention away from their 911 plot.
(For you liberals out there, what I just wrote was kooky satire, but many of your type actually believe stuff like that)
Of course here in Connectcut, we have bridges that just fall apart all by themselves - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mianus_River_Bridge
No she-ite.....I wonder why we've not heard Rosie 'O Blob comment about this????
I’m going from memory here, but in the 1970’s when I was growing up in the Detroit Metro area, there was a rash of tanker fires on Detroit’s expressways. In Detroit, the expressways are built in a series of concrete lined trenches instead of being elevated.
Finally Detroit banned all hazardous cargo from those stretches of expressway because of all the expensive damage to the concrete retaining walls and overpasses.
Same on Rt 95 in Philly a few years back.
Wandered a mile through darkened streets of Oakland, and lived! That, in itself, is amazing.
“After the crash, Mosqueda, 51, wandered more than a mile through darkened streets in Oakland with second-degree burns to a gas station and hailed a cab to take him to the emergency room, according to police and the taxi driver.”
Does anyone think this sounds strange? If I was the driver I would have waited for EMS. Why would you leave the scene...unless he was in shock? Does this all seem rather odd?
They don’t use units, and this comparison is meaningless. (unless perhaps if converted to degrees Kelvin.)
Just say “by comparison, the average home oven has a maximum temperature of 550F.” Or, “which is really, really hot.” Or, “steel melts at xxx F”?