Bridge Collapses: Fact or Fiction

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Bridges collapse for many reasons, from engineering mistakes to earthquakes and train wrecks. Some bridge collapses are tragic, others simply strange. Test your knowledge and see if you can tell the difference.
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Question 1 of 20
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1.SomebridgesbuiltbytheRomansalmost2,000yearsagoarestillstanding.
  • Fact
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: Several Roman arch bridges remain standing today, enduring centuries of weather and war. The Alcántara Bridge in Spain is one example.
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2.Modernsteelbridgesareimpervioustofire.
  • Fact
  • Fiction
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: There have been several incidents in which tanker trucks full of gasoline caught fire under a bridge, creating a fire so intense it softened the steel enough to collapse the bridge.
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3.AbridgeovertheNiagaraRiver,downstreamfromNiagaraFalls,wasdestroyedbyice.
  • Fact
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: The Upper Steel Arch Bridge, built in 1898, collapsed in 1938 when a massive ice jam pushed the bridge right off of its piers. Today, an ice boom in Lake Erie prevents huge ice jams from forming in the Niagara River.
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4.The1967collapseoftheSilverBridgeatPointPleasant,WVa.wascausedbyMothman.
  • Fact
  • Fiction
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: Small cracks formed during casting marred a piece of steel used to build the bridge. Corrosion made the cracks worse, and the piece eventually failed, leading to a total collapse of the bridge.
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5.Engineerscan'tbeheldlegallyaccountablefordesignerrorsthatleadtobridgecollapses.
  • Fact
  • Fiction
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: Although it depends on the laws of the country where the collapse occurs, engineers have been held accountable in many cases. The engineers who approved the faulty Kansas City Hyatt Regency designs lost their licenses, for example.
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6.Mostbridgecollapsesarecausedbyfloodsorerosion.
  • Fact
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: A study showed that scour, the process of moving water washing soil out from under bridge piers, caused the majority of bridge colapses over a 10-year period.
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7.Boatsandshipsmoveslowly,sowhentheyrunintoabridgepieritdoesn'ttendtocausemuchdamage.
  • Fact
  • Fiction
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: Boats are so massive that even low-speed impacts transmit tremendous force, enough to collapse the bridge in some cases.
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8.TheEschededisasterinGermanywastheresultofatrainbridgecollapsingontoaroadway.
  • Fact
  • Fiction
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: It was the opposite -- a high-speed train derailed and struck the piers of a road bridge, causing it to collapse onto the train.
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9.Mostofthedeathscausedbythe1989LomaPrietaearthquakeoccurredinbridgecollapses.
  • Fact
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: Forty-two people were killed in the collapse of the Cyprus Street Viaduct -- well over the half of the total deaths in the quake.
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10.TheTacomaNarrowsBridge,famouslyknownas"GallopingGertie,"collapsedbecauseitstartedvibratingatafrequencythatmatchedthestructure'snaturalresonance.
  • Fact
  • Fiction
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: This is a common misconception, but the collapse was actually caused by wind inducing a tortional vibration in the bridge. The aerodynamics of the bridge were such that even mild winds caused it to flex and vibrate drastically.
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11.TheworstbridgecollapseinhistoryhappenedinChina.
  • Fact
  • Fiction
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: The bridge collapse with possibly the largest loss of life (there may be some for which there is no historical record) occurred in Angers, France in 1850. It collapsed while a battalion of soldiers was marching across, killing 226 of them.
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12.Peoplemarchinginstepcancauseabridgetocollapse.
  • Fact
  • Fiction
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: Several suspension bridge collapses in the 1800s occurred while soldiers were marching across. Though they were likely due to other factors, European armies actually adopted regulations that troops "break step" when crossing bridges. However, studies have shown that footfalls, even in step, are very unlikely to damage modern bridges.
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13.Abridgeoncecollapsedbecauseitgottoocold.
  • Fact
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: The King Street Bridge in Melbourne, Australia collapsed in 1962 when a heavy truck passed over it. Extremely cold weather wasn't the only factor in the collapse, but it caused the steel to become brittle.
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14.Regularmaintenancehelpspreventbridgecollapses.
  • Fact
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: Bridges deteriorate over time, so some elements of the structure need to be repaired or replaced from time to time. Regular inspections and maintenance ensure are crucial to bridge safety.
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15.AsingleflooddestroyedfourbridgesinEnglandin2009.
  • Fact
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: Massive rainfall caused the River Derwent to surge with water. The volume of water and debris carried by the flooding destroyed four bridges and took the life of a police officer.
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16.Bridgescourcanbeavoidedbybuildingmorebridgepiers.
  • Fact
  • Fiction
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: The addition of riprap, or large stones, around bridge piers reduces scour. Adding more piers could make scour worse by constraining the flow of water, forcing it to move faster.
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17.TherewasnoevidenceofstructuralfailureorstrainintheI-35WbridgeinMinneapolispriortoitscollapse.
  • Fact
  • Fiction
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: Photos taken during inspections in the years before the collapse were later found to show evidence that the steel gusset plates, which ultimately failed, were bending under the weight of the bridge.
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18.Bridgecollapsesalwayshappenwithnowarning.
  • Fact
  • Fiction
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: Some bridges collapse gradually. The 2006 De la Concorde overpass collapse near Montreal occurred only after several drivers and nearby residents called the police to report pieces of it falling away. A police officer even arrived at the scene and called for an inspection a few days later, but didn't close the bridge. It collapsed a few minutes later, killing five.
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19.Manydifferenttypesofnaturaldisasterscausebridgestocollapse.
  • Fact
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: Floods are the prime culprit, but earthquakes, landslides, lahars and even tornadoes have caused bridges to collapse.
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20.AbridgeinAlabamawasoncedestroyedbyacombinationofboatandtrainimpactsinthesamenight.
  • Fact
    Incorrect! Correct Answer: In 1993, a barge struck a rail bridge near Mobile, Ala. in a heavy fog. The impact didn't destroy the bridge, but it knocked the rails out of alignment. When a train came along a few minutes later, it derailed and hurtled into the bridge pier, destroying the bridge.
  • Fiction
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