CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) – The collapse of a West Virginia highway bridge 50 years ago Friday set into motion congressional hearings that led to the first national bridge inspection program.
Forty-six people died when the Silver Bridge along U.S. Route 35 fell into the frigid Ohio River at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, on Dec. 15, 1967.
National Transportation Safety Board records showed the 39-year-old bridge hadn’t been thoroughly inspected in 16 years.
Acting Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson says the tragedy was a “national wake-up call and inspired a much more aggressive effort to inspect and maintain bridges across the country.”
Federal data shows that while nearly one-fourth of the nation’s 611,000 bridges were either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete in 2015, that’s a drop from more than 30 percent in 2000.
Secretary of Transportation Tom Smith will join West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, Federal Highway Administration Acting Director Brandye Hendrickson, as well as other federal, state, county and local officials as the West Virginia Division of Highways commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse in Pt. Pleasant, with a ceremony on Friday, December 15, at 11:00 a.m. on 6th Street, in front of the courthouse, in Pt. Pleasant, WV. The public is invited to attend. Families of victims have also been invited to take part.
“It was important that we recognize the 50th anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse, not to re-live the tragedy that took 46 lives, but to acknowledge the program that came as a result, The National Bridge Inspection Program, saving thousands of lives across the nation,” stated Secretary Smith. “Equally important is helping Mason County, the City of Point Pleasant, and the surrounding area honor those lives lost and support a community that was forever changed.”
Because a large crowd is expected, parking is very limited downtown, so public parking and complimentary shuttles will be available at the boat ramp parking lot and the Mason County Board of Education lot.
The event will also be streamed live and can be accessed through Governor Justice’s website: www.governor.wv.gov