Crumbling concrete; Contact 5 investigates problem bridges

There are nine structurally deficient bridges

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Chances are you drive over one every day and may have no idea what's lying beneath the surface.

Bridges dot the landscape of South Florida.  But as the Contact 5 Investigators discovered, there's a bridge that needs big repairs or needs to be torn down in every county in South Florida.

The Contact 5 Investigators went searching by air in Chopper 5, went crawling under bridges with an engineer, and even coasted in a boat under some of the areas most traveled structures. 

What they found, may surprise you.

"We're just very worried that it's going to collapse," said Susan Schupp, a homeowner who lives near the A1A Bridge over Little Lake Worth in North Palm Beach.

 "You hear of bridges collapsing and people being killed and we just want this to get resolved," she said.

State records show 13,000 people drive over Little Lake Worth every day.  It's the north bridge to Singer Island.

It's close to 50 years old and the concrete is crumbling.

"This whole face shell right here is ready to crack off," said Brian Rheault, an engineer with Bridge Design Associates.

The bridge looked pretty bad from up top, but underneath, you can see where entire sections of concrete have chipped away.

Nearby homeowners said it has been that way for the past five years.  We'll have more on that later.

First, the Contact 5 Investigators discovered there are more than 250 bridges in the area that need repairs.  Plus, there are another nine bridges marked as "structurally deficient."  That means they need a major overhaul or need to be torn down completely.

To see a map and pictures of the structurally deficient bridges, click here.

One of those bridges includes the Southern Boulevard Bridge over the Intracoastal where we took a closer look with an engineer.

"You can see the discolored areas are where they've patched the concrete," said Rheault.

It's an old bridge, a moving bridge that over the years has seen its share of wear and tear.

"This bridge is so old, it's before the invention of plywood or before plywood was popular," said Rheault.

It's not scheduled to be replaced for another three years.

"It has a structural deficiency but it hasn't reached the health index that makes it unsafe to use," Rheault said.

Some bridges can't get fixed right away because it takes a lot of money and a lot of time to design new bridges.

Road workers post weight restriction signs on some of the areas worst bridges.

"It's just like there are a lot of cars on the road, they're not all brand new and in perfect shape, some of them need more work than others," said FDOT spokesperson Barbara Kelleher.

Which bridges us back to the crumbling bridge we started with in North Palm Beach.

Years after neighbors voiced concern, the state finally started the slow process of rebuilding it.

"It's about a year delayed because of the permit protest," said Kelleher.

It was delayed due to four feet.  New state standards will raise the structure to 12 feet instead of eight.  It's a height a few neighbors didn't want and fought; worried it would bring in more boat traffic.

It's a process some people think hasn't worked fast enough.

"This has been going on for so long this debate over this bridge and the bridge just keeps deteriorating, so we're really happy to see all of this work being done," said Schupp.

The bridge over Little Lake Worth won't be complete under the end of this year. 

Every bridge gets inspected at least once every two years in Florida.

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