Monday, August 27, 2007

In China, Too

Submitted by Paul Ellis

A previous post for this blog highlighted China's voracious appetite for building new roads. The Asian nation is also surpassing the United States in another area of record: bridge collapses.

As families continued to mourn nine people killed in Guangdong Province after a cargo vessel struck a bridge there, the nation was rocked by news of an even more shocking incident. Twenty-nine workers were killed and 46 are still missing after the bridge they were building in Fenghuang, a tourist destination in central Hunan Province, crumbled down on top of them.

The bridge was part of the highway linking Fenghuang and Daxing Airport of Tongren in neighboring Guizhou Province. Construction of the 42-meter-high structure was almost complete except for dismantling the steel scaffoldings, and more than 120 workers were removing the scaffoldings--during the afternoon rush hour--when all the four arches of the 328-meter-long stone bridge fell.

The Chinese Ministry of Communications reports that more than 6,000 damaged or dangerous bridges will be fixed or rebuilt under an ambitious plan to make China's major roadways safer by 2010. Figures from the ministry's annual report on road maintenance found that by the end of 2006, some 6,300 of China's 500,000 or so bridges were graded "fifth rank"--defined as "in dangerous status with some important structural components seriously damaged".

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community’s largest transportation planning effort.

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