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Expert: Overpasses not designed to withstand impact

Overpasses like the one that collapsed at Northwest Expressway and May Avenue aren't designed to withstand impact from a vehicle, a road and bridge expert said Thursday.

The overpass that carries May Avenue over the westbound lane of Northwest Expressway collapsed Thursday afternoon after a semi-truck crashed into the bridge, Oklahoma City officials said.

Bobby Stem, executive director of the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors, said the collapse doesn't necessarily indicate that the bridge was deficient. Although overpasses might be able to withstand a moderate impact, they aren't designed with that goal in mind, Stem said.

“They’re not built to withstand impact like that," he said.

Stem compared the collapse to a similar incident in 2002, when a tugboat on Robert S. Kerr Reservoir struck a bridge on Interstate 40 near Webbers Falls, causing the bridge to collapse. One of the main differences in this case, though, is that no injuries have been reported in Thursday's collapse. The I-40 bridge collapse resulted in 14 deaths and several injuries.

“Thank goodness no one’s hurt," Stem said.

Silas Allen

Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri. Read more ›