Md. transportation secretary orders 27 bridges to be inspected

Just one day after Maryland highway officials told FOX 5 they are proud of the job they are doing in maintaining bridges across the state, the acting transportation secretary has ordered targeted inspections of bridges statewide.

The bridges that will get those mandatory inspections are similar in age and condition to the one being repaired after concrete fell and smashed the windshield of an elderly woman's car in Prince George's County earlier this week.

Acting Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn ordered 27 state-owned bridges to be inspected, a news release issued on Thursday said. In it, Rahn also apologized to Catherine Deane, whose car was struck by the bridge debris.

He also said that motorists should not have to think twice about driving across or under one of the bridges in Maryland.

Deane's attorney said she is thankful the state is taking action, but is still trying to recover from what happened. In a split second, her road trip turned from routine to traumatizing when concrete fell from the I-495/I-95 bridge onto the windshield of her car Tuesday.

"It is something that I never expect to happen, never thought it would happen going underneath a bridge," she said.

Maryland highway officials got straight to work on repairing the bridge the next day, telling FOX 5 on Wednesday that the pieces that fell were not crucial to the integrity of the structure and deemed it safe.

On Thursday, Valerie Edgar, director of communications for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said they meant to say safe to drive on.

But Deane's attorney wants to know what about safety concerns when it comes to driving under the bridge?

"I don't see how anyone can say it's not a safety issue," said attorney Stephen Gensemer of Ashcraft and Gerel. "You have people getting hurt underneath the bridges as they are collapsing."

Rahn says each mandatory inspection of bridges like this one that is crumbling will start immediately in light of what happened. The project will involve specially trained inspectors who will examine the bridges and find and fix any loose concrete.

"I guarantee you those 27 bridges would not be getting attention right now if this story hadn't been as big as it is," said Gensemer.

As for his client, he said Deane is doing the best she can to cope with what happened, but is having trouble sleeping. She is happy to see some action in regards to safety both above and below the bridges, hoping and praying that this never happens to anyone else again. She is also trying to put the "what ifs" out of her mind.

"We cross bridges every day and assume it is safe to do so," Gensemer said. "When something like this happens, it shows us it is not safe. But I know Ms. Deane is very happy that the state is actually taking some steps towards it."

Inspections on those 27 bridges will start immediately and should be completed in the next few days.

In the meantime, planking will be extended under this bridge to catch any more concrete that might fall.