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Quakes, Terror Threaten Structures

April 29, 2002

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ The nation must be prepared for terrorism, as well as natural disasters, which pose a threat to bridges and freeway overpasses, a federal highway official said Monday.

Earthquakes remain the most serious danger to those structures, but terrorism is a growing concern, Gary Hamby, Western regional director of the Federal Highway Administration, told the third National Seismic Conference.

Hamby said his agency is working with the Office of Homeland Security and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to assess the vulnerability of bridges and overpasses during the next three to six months.

The national highway system must be able to adapt not only to natural disasters, but also acts of terrorism that could disrupt transportation and seriously damage the economy, he said.

``It’s an extraordinary challenge,″ Hamby said, ``but safety is our top concern.″

Roland Nimis, Western infrastructure chief for the highway administration, said earthquakes around the world have taught bridge engineers many valuable lessons since the last conference in 1997.

The 6.8 magnitude Nisqually earthquake near Seattle on Feb. 28, 2001, gave engineers one of their best looks at how well older U.S. bridge designs withstand seismic shock.


On the Net:

Federal Highway Administration: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov

Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research: http://mceer.buffalo.edu

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