KIMA investigates the safety of Yakima County bridges

KIMA investigates the safety of Yakima County bridges »Play Video

YAKIMA, Wash. -- You rely on them everyday and probably don't give them a second thought. The bridges of Yakima County are a critical part of our infrastructure. A failing bridge can mean disaster. We learned a dozen bridges here are structurally deficient. But what does that mean?

Most don't think twice. You drive over a Yakima County bridge and assume it's safe. Unless, you're like Art Chandler, you notice it's wear and tear.

"Things that are worn out, rustic and so forth, then I worry a little bit," said Art.

Although most bridges in Yakima County are several decades old, almost all of them are as safe as driving on asphalt. However, a dozen of the more than 300 bridges are structurally deficient.

We asked, "People sitting at home hear the word structurally deficient and think, 'Oh no, that's a bad bridge.' But what is it really?"

"It's a way of saying the structure quality of the bridge has been degraded," said Yakima County Bridge Engineer Mark Cleaver.

But Cleaver said all bridges are safe to drive on. He explained each bridge has a sufficiency rating. If it's below 40, the county can get state money for repairs.

North Myers Road near Toppenish has the lowest rating of six. A weight restriction helps, but Cleaver says it needs work.

"The bridge is susceptible to scour, has shallow footing," said Cleaver.

Yakima County says the money and plans to replace it are secure, but the permit process can take a while. Keeping drivers like Art frustrated, but more importantly, alert.

"It's preventable care that hasn't been happening," said Art.

Cleaver says the county is up to date on all its inspections and ensures your safety is takes priority. However, he agrees more funding and attention would pay off down the road.

"We need to start putting more money and effort into restoring this infrastructure," said Cleaver.

Two bridges in Yakima County had major maintenance done over the last year. Six like the Beaudry Road project are wrapping up construction.