How safe is the H Street Bridge?
A federal official is warning one of the busiest bridges in the nation's capital is at risk because Congress will not free up the money to repair it. FOX 5 went to check out the condition of the H Street Bridge near Union Station and what we saw was alarming.
Nearly every kind of ground transportation you can name goes over or under the bridge. Amtrak and Metrorail trains have to go underneath to get to and from Union Station. Buses, cars, pedestrians and even D.C.'s streetcars travel on top of it.
While this bridge may look fine from above, there is a different story going on underneath -- with plenty of rust and decay.
Muhammed Khalid is chief engineer of the District Department of Transportation. He said bridge conditions range from "excellent" to "critical."
How about the H Street Bridge? It rates just "fair" and is only getting worse.
"The corrosion will continue to happen and then it will have section loss on the steel," Khalid said. "And at some point, structural stability would be an issue."
You don't have to be a structural engineer to see there is something wrong here underneath the bridge. The rust is everywhere and only a tiny bit of pressure is required to flake it off.
FOX 5 found large sections of the underdecking missing concrete with exposed rebar. Much of the underbelly is covered in a thick, flaking rust with some sections rusted right through.
"This whole bridge needs to be taken down and rebuilt," said D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
She puts the blame on Congress. The $275 million project is $75 million short. She said the delay also threatens a plan to redevelop of Union Station.
"Unless we get this done, we are holding up other projects as well," she said.
What is at stake? If the unthinkable happens, East Coast rail service, traffic and H Street's growing neighborhood could be cut off. But for now, that is a bridge no one is willing to cross.
D.C.'s Department of Transportation does bridge inspections every two years.
DDOT has made major progress in the past couple years with fixes to the South Capitol Street and Pennsylvania Avenue bridges.
DDOT told us there are at least 30 projects like this in D.C. alone, but not enough funding from Congress to do it.