A car driving along Suitland Road Tuesday was hit by debris that fell from a bridge in Prince George's County. Now, we are learning the bridge that concrete fell from, which shattered a windshield and terrified the driver, is on a list of structurally deficient bridges.
A spokesperson from the Maryland State Highway Administration said they are proud of how they are managing the problem when it comes to bridge maintenance compared to other states. But for the woman in the car that was struck by concrete Tuesday, that is just not good enough.
"This bridge, while it was obviously not an ideal situation for the driver that had this debris come down on her vehicle, it was a superficial part of the bridge," said David Buck, spokesperson for the Maryland State High Administration. "It has nothing to do with the integrity or safety of the bridge."
That might be good news for people crossing the bridge itself, but for people like Catherine Deane, it was not remotely ideal at all. Her windshield was shattered by the rock falling onto her car while she was driving under a bridge on Suitland Road.
"I'm still shaken because I had just gone into complete shock," Deane said of the incident.
Still, Maryland road officials maintain their record of keeping bridges in shape is a pretty good one -- with about 80 out of more than 2,000 bridges listed as structurally deficient.
Buck explained that is a lot lower than most states and "structurally deficient" does not necessarily mean a bridge must be repaired immediately.
"We prioritize that," said Buck. "Whether it is one to three years, three to five years, or four to six years, we know when it needs to happen."
On Wednesday, crews worked to repair the concrete that fell from this bridge that damaged Deane's car by applying epoxy to shore up the concrete. Buck said it should be good for at least the next two years.
In the meantime, drivers continued to use the bridge and pass under it.
"We will close a bridge, if we would ever need to, for a safety reason," said Buck. "But again, this was not a safety reason. This is a piece of concrete that fell off a bridge and went into a lane of traffic."
Deane's attorney is clearly concerned about his client's safety and issued this statement: "While Ms. Deane was extremely fortunate that her injuries were not more extensive, we need to do everything possible to ensure the State takes appropriate measure to ensure the public's safety and prevent another tragedy."
Buck acknowledges that although they are doing the best they can, that may not ever be completely possible.
"Things happen, concrete deteriorates, so while we would love to tell you and every one of our 2,600 bridges that this is going to never happen again, I can't tell you that," said Buck. "I can tell we will do everything we can to keep it from happening and we are going to react very quickly if it does, but things happen with concrete over time."
The Maryland State Highway Administration tells FOX 5 that there is planking, which acts as netting, under the travel lanes and it will be extended under and beyond the bridge wall where Tuesday's incident occurred.