WVXU: Could a bridge collapse like Baltimore's happen here?

UC bridge expert tells Cincinnati Edition there are key differences in boat traffic on Ohio River

WVXU's Cincinnati Edition spoke to a University of Cincinnati civil engineer to learn how Ohio River bridges in Cincinnati compare to the Baltimore bridge that collapsed after being struck by a container ship early Monday morning.

UC professor Richard Miller, Exemplary Service to the University Award shown here at the Baldwin Hall. UC/Joseph Fuqua II

Richard Miller

UC College of Engineering and Applied Science Professor Richard Miller is head of UC's Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management, where he studies bridge design, construction and repair.

Miller told host Lucy May that truss bridges like the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore have been used safely and well for about 150 years, Miller said.

But most bridges aren't designed to withstand an impact from a vessel the size and mass of the loaded container ship MV Dali.

“Can we do it? With enough money and time, we can do anything. It becomes an issue of resources,” he said.

Miller said in his lab at UC, students work with structural steel used in bridges.

“We bring bridge girders in and test them. I am constantly amazed by how strong they are and how much damage bridge elements can take and still hold up,” he said.

Miller also spoke with WLWT about the disaster.

“Obviously, any time a bridge collapses, it's a great tragedy. The important thing to understand is there are millions of bridges in the United States. Bridge collapses are very rare,” he told WLWT.

Miller said boats that routinely traverse the Ohio River are considerably smaller than the massive container ships that travel through Baltimore Harbor. The 984-foot-long MV Dali struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge, killing as many as six people. Fully loaded, the ship weighs more than 100,000 tons, USA Today reported.

“We have nothing nearly as big as that container ship in Baltimore traveling on the Ohio River,” Miller said.

Listen to the Cincinnati Edition interview.

Featured image at top: UC engineers say boats on the Ohio River are far smaller than the massive container vessel that destroyed a bridge in Baltimore, killing as many as six people this week. Photo/Elliott Kolbus for UC

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