Gerald Turner has been a truck driver for almost 20 years and on an average day, he drives across 10 to 15 bridges. Driving a 26,000 pound truck across some of the bridges makes him feel a little uneasy. Turner says, "yes, I do kinda feel unsafe sometimes." This is a point of view that can be seen differently through the eyes of other truck drivers. "You might be ahead of a car, and that weight might be the weight that determines the capacity of that bridge that particular day," said Turner. Warren Mayette drives an 80,000 pound truck and has some different feelings on the way of the road. "I've done it for so long that I take it for granted that the bridges are fine" says Mayette. "I've always respected the integrity of the bridges, I never figured there would ever be any problems with it." The Georgia Department of Transportation says under federal guidelines, inspectors check bridges every two years and rate them by what's called a "sufficiency rating" on a scale of zero to 100. The score is reached from contributing factors, such as how many lanes each bridge has, the average number of daily traffic, and if the bridge was built over water. "A 50 does not mean the bridge is going to collapse," said Georgia Department of Transportation officials. Now, 50 to most might seems like a failing grade. However, the bridge is not in any danger says GDOT; it may just need a little TLC. "We just want to look at it and have it on our radar to look at it more closely." But there are other factors that could add to or subtract from that rating. GDOT says bridges that have columns that sit in water, always get the short end of the stick and that "flooding is never a friend to a bridge."
"So you've got consider that in that flooding, all of the debris, trash, trees limbs in all pushes up against those columns that are in the water, it'll tend to scour them out underneath and that's a big concern." In Albany and Dougherty County, FOX 31 checked the ratings of some of the most traveled bridges. The bridge that crosses over the Flint River off Oglethorpe Boulevard has a sufficiency rating of 54.41. The bridge was last inspected in November of 2011 and was built back in 1953. Over 25,000 cars travel across the bridge daily. Next, the bridge that crosses over Liberty Expressway at Blaylock Street has a sufficiency rating of 82.93. It was last inspected two years ago in December of 2011 and was built back in 1974. At last check, it had over 35,000 cars crossing it's path daily. Lastly, the bridge that crosses over Highway 19 on Albany's northside has a sufficiency rating of 88.31. It was last inspected in December of 2011 and was constructed back in 1974. This bridge carries over 44,000 cars a day.
GDOT says, "if a bridge gets a 40 or below sufficiency rating, that bridge will then go through a series of tests, and if all the issues aren't worthy of being fixed, the bridge will be shut down" says GDOT. "We will not leave a bridge open for traffic or pedestrians to travel across that we feel is unsafe."