Signs Genoa’s Morandi motorway bridge needed repair were ignored or missed, but its initial structure didn’t have enough built-in fail-safes anyway
AUTHORITIES in Italy are investigating what went wrong to make Genoa’s Morandi motorway bridge collapse last week, killing 43 people.
Bridges rarely just give way. They normally show signs of wear and tear, such as cracks or corrosion, long before they fall apart. Even then a collapse doesn’t normally follow and there is plenty of time to organise a fix.
Most suspension bridges, such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, use cables to support them, but the few on the Morandi bridge were encased in concrete. This contributes to a lack of structural redundancy, and if one component fails, it can have a disproportionate effect on the bridge if other parts can’t take the strain.
Undoubtedly, signs the bridge was in need of repair were either ignored or missed, but a better bridge would probably have lasted longer. The design turned out to be an architectural dead end, and luckily few other bridges were ever built like it.
Modern bridges have greater structural redundancy, which is a good thing. Even components in more recent structures fail, but this redundancy keeps a failure from becoming a disaster.
This article appeared in print under the headline “A bridge too far”