When seeing on Twitter and Facebook that a 5.9-magnitude earthquake had rattled the East Coast this afternoon, I immediately thought of a couple stories I wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer 18 years ago.
A native of Camden, N.J., I had just started as a reporter in the newspaper's South Jersey bureau a couple of months earlier. I really enjoyed writing an in-depth article about the Burlington County Bridge Commission considering spending nearly $2 million to protect the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge from an earthquake. Here's an excerpt:
Although a quake rarely strikes this area, it could happen, experts say. To them, the $1.9 million that the commissioners have tentatively put aside to retrofit the Tacony-Palmyra would be money well spent. They say the project is basically a matter of driving nails through the bridge's feet to increase its chance of staying put if shaken.
Transportation officials nationwide say thousands of older bridges could collapse from a moderate earthquake. Designs for new bridges built with state or federal funds must meet updated earthquake -proofing standards. Older taxpayer-supported bridges get retrofitted during overhauls.
Because the Burlington County Bridge Commission is essentially a private bridge owner – its money comes from commuter tolls – neither the Federal Highway Administration nor the state Department of Transportation will order an earthquake retrofit for the Tacony-Palmyra. That leaves the commission, even though it's already put the $1.9 million aside, still wrestling over what to do. "That really threw us. That $2 million pricetag was a bit staggering," said commission spokesman Robert Stears. "The bridge has stood since 1929 without any kind of earthquake affecting it. It's not as if earthquakes really happen very much in this region."
Click here to read the entire story. Hoping everyone back home and across the East Coast is OK.