The head of Iowa State University’s Bridge Engineering Center examines up to 20 Iowa bridges each year and he is "not afraid of collapses."
ISU Bridge Engineering Center director Terry Wipf says Wednesday’s I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis was "horrific" and something "very unusual" must have happened to cause it. But Wipf has no qualms about driving across any bridge in Iowa.
"I think they’re very safe. I think typical bridges across the country are very safe," he says.
According to Wipf, there is no bridge in Iowa made in the style of that Minneapolis bridge. Wipf and his fellow researchers often have placed special instruments on Iowa bridges to check for structural concerns, and have found nothing worrisome.
"Nothing that was a problem," he says.
Wipf predicts that in reaction to the Minneapolis incident, more instruments will be installed to constantly evaluate the condition of older bridges across the country. "That work is already going on," Wipf says. "It just may accelerate that process a bit."
Wipf expects engineers who’re conducting the investigation of what went wrong in Minneapolis will sift through inspection and evaluation records. There were instruments placed on that bridge to evaluate its performance, according to Wipf. He says engineers will also inspect the steel beams to try to identify a point that initiated the bridge failure.
Wipf hopes the Minneapolis bridge collapse will built more public support for increased spending on the nation’s highway and bridge infrastructure."In the bridge field, (we’re) continually changing the standards and the process, the guidelines by which we design bridges as we learn more and more and more over time," Wipf says.