Over time, architecture has taken many turns. Some buildings last for thousands of years, and others struggle to last a hundred years. Also, some structures go through more things that can degrade them, such as the elements and usage. Such as the case with the Silver Bridge. The Silver Bridge was built in 1928 and connected Point Pleasant, West Virginia with Gallipolis, Ohio via US Route 35, taking it over the Ohio River. It was an eyebar-chain suspension bridge. The bridge got its name from the color of its aluminum paint.
The bridge was less that 40 years old when disaster struck on December 15, 1967. It is said that the bridge collapsed under the weight of rush-hour traffic, but that seems extreme to me. How many cars would it take to break a bridge, and how would they all fit on the bridge to make it break? When the bridge came down, 46 people lost their lives. Search and rescue operations were immediately put in place, and 44 people were found, but two of the victims were never found. When the bridge was rebuilt in 1969, it would be both a bridge and a memorial to those who lost their lives that fateful day.
No such disaster can take place without an investigation following it, to determine the cause. The causes of these disasters actually help to correct the flaws so that things like this don’t happen in the future. The investigation into the cause of the Silver Bridge collapse came down to the failure of just one eyebar. I suppose that once that one gave way, the load was too much for the rest of the eyebar links. It was further determined that the eyebar that failed had a small defect 0.1 inches deep. The analysis showed that the bridge was carrying much heavier loads than it was designed for. Cars were heavier too and there were more of them, putting more strain on the small defect in the eyebar. In addition, the bridge had been poorly maintained, further weakening the structure. These days, bridges can still fail, but they maybe don’t quite as often, and most last longer than 40 years.