TIP SHEET: Bridge Structure and Safety

August 03, 2007

Associate professor of civil engineering
University of Virginia
(434) 924-6360

Baber has seen video of the Minneapolis bridge collapse and has formed some theories of how it may have happened. His research interests include the effects of vibration, but he does not believe vibration was a factor in the Minneapolis collapse; instead, he said he would first look at failure of some elements of one end of the bridge. He does not think the collapse is symptomatic of a system in peril; he points out that the last collapse of an interstate bridge due to purely structural failures occurred in Connecticut in 1988.

Associate professor of architecture
University of Virginia
(434) 924-6445

Martini teaches structural design at U.Va.'s School of Architecture. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in architecture from the University of California at Berkeley in 1980, a Master of Science in structural engineering and a Master of Architecture in 1982, and a Ph.D. in structural engineering in 1990, all from U.C. Berkeley. He is a licensed civil engineer in California and used to work with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in San Francisco. In 1989 he worked as a graduate student summer intern at Taisei Construction in Tokyo, and completed post-doctoral studies at Tokyo University in 1992. His research interests include design and planning for wind and earthquakes, non-linear structural analysis and interactive computer animation. "The skill I can offer is a lot of experience explaining engineering concepts to non-engineers," he says.

Fear of bridges

Assistant professor of psychology
University of Virginia
Office: (434) 924-0676 or (434) 982-4750; Home: (434) 964-1865

Teachman specializes in treatment for people with an assortment of phobias, including fear of heights, bridges, and disasters. "It is not unusual to have terrible images of driving off a bridge or of a bridge collapsing," she says, "and for some people, these fears become so intense that the individual stops driving altogether. Fortunately, these disasters rarely occur and driving over bridges is generally very safe. However, it is natural to feel some fear after a tragic accident like this."