12 INVESTIGATES: Structurally deficient bridges in Richmond area

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - We go behind the scenes with the people who inspect the bridges to take a look at which ones are the worst, the oldest and the ones that are most cracked and crumbling.

The government demands bridge inspections every two years.  But for those bridges like we found that have peeling paint, rusted bolts, corroded metal, uneven pavement, even cracks - inspections come annually.

We met with Gary Martin, who is in charge of VDOT's bridge inspecting program, at the Hermitage Road Bridge at Interstate 95 in Richmond and asked them to show us what they look for.

"Maybe even some cracking. You can see there's some additional cracking right here on both sides. So, that's an indication you are having some corrosion on the rebarb," Martin said, as he walked through a bridge inspection.

Video from VDOT of an actual inspection shows that bucket trucks are brought out and lanes are often closed as inspectors go over nearly every inch of the bridge. Those that aren't quite up to today's standards - that may have crumbling concrete and cracks - are considered structurally deficient.

"It doesn't mean that they're not safe. If there was a safety problem we would address it immediately," Martin said.

According to a 2012 VDOT report on the bridges in the Commonwealth, 25% of the bridges around the state are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

60% of the bridges are 40 years or older. Most of the bridges in Virginia were only designed to last 50 years. VDOT says inspections are done yearly on those bridges and anytime crews spot an issue of major concern, they make emergency repairs.

Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.