Fatal Bay Bridge crash prompts call for changes in bridge safety tests

Tractor-trailer broke through corroded barrier in 2008 accident

November 25, 2010|By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun

After a 40,000-pound tractor-trailer crashed through the side of the Bay Bridge in 2008, a federal agency has made bridge safety testing recommendations in a report released Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board report found that voids in the concrete barriers left metal bars that fastened the barriers to the Bay Bridge's deck susceptible to weathering. As a result of the weakened barriers, truck driver John Robert Short, 57, of Willards plummeted about 30 feet into the bay, after attempting to avoid a Chevrolet Camaro that had crossed the center line.

Short's truck was the first vehicle to crash through one of the safety barriers in the history of the bridge.

While the bridge had undergone inspections by the NTSB before the accident, the tests did not reveal that many of the bolts that connect the barrier to the bridge were broken.

The report recommends that the Federal Highway Administration make all states aware of "the risks of steel reinforcement corrosion and voids in concrete barriers," and adopt methods used by the Maryland Transportation Authority.

The MdTA used "ground-penetrating radar," which uses electromagnetic waves that found "voids were prominent," the report said. Those voids can collect moisture, causing the steel bolts to corrode.

The barriers have since been reinforced.

The driver of the Camaro, Candy Lynn Baldwin of Millington, who was 19 at the time, was returning to the Eastern Shore from a wedding when she crossed the center line of the eastbound span of the bridge, which at the time was being used for two-way traffic for U.S. 50.

She was charged with crossing the center line, negligent driving and violating a restriction on her drivers' license against underage drinking. Her blood-alcohol level was .03, below the legal limit of .07 for impairment and .08 threshold to be considered under the influence.

In September, Baldwin and Short's family agreed to a $100,000 settlement.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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