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.