County checks bridge safety Is the span quake-ready?

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! PICO RIVERA – Officials of Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Works are double-checking that design plans for the new Beverly Boulevard bridge incorporate the recently discovered Puente Hills faultline.Under the persistent urging of local resident Jim Flournoy, county officials recently took the design to an outside engineering consulting firm to ensure that the 6-year-old bridge design can accommodate the new seismic information first detected in 1999.“The bridge was designed in 1999 and does not take into account this \ fault,” said Pat BeChellias, deputy director of the county’s Department of Public Works.“However, due to the gentleman’s insistence, we went to the outside geotech firm to compare the updated information to ours in order to answer conclusively.”BeChellias said county engineers believe the bridge design is conservative enough to survive an earthquake involving the Puente Hills fault, therefore he did not anticipate any added costs or delays to the project.“Results from the analysis should be available next week,” BeChellias said. “However, if results are what we believe they will be, there won’t be any delays. If not, the impact would depend on how close (the design) is to being right.”In 1997, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina told officials from Montebello and Pico Rivera, co-owners of the bridge, to set aside money for the bridge’s replacement. Using the 1996 Caltrans guidelines, a new bridge design was completed by 1999.On the day federal funding was approved for the project a month ago, the bridge was destroyed when a homeless man accidentally set fire to the structure while trying to keep warm. Flournoy, a Rosemead resident and former contractor, has been agitating for Caltrans to update its seismic standards to include the new fault, saying scientists have predicted damage from a 7.5 Puente Hills-induced quake to be much higher than the same size quake by the Whittier fault.“They \ have a good opportunity before they build this bridge to check and make sure the design is updated,” Flournoy said. “There is no policy to prompt Caltrans to update their standards, even when the information is out there.”Chief Seismologist for Caltrans Lalliana Mualchin said the new seismic information is currently being integrated into a new set of standards and should be completed “soon,” although he did not give a specific time.“It’s a big state with a lot of bureaucracy,” Mualchin said. “We live at the good will of our colleagues at universities. Of course we must evaluate whether it \ is worthy of consideration, but if we are being informed by someone who’s aware, then we can and should include the information in our standards.”Long thought to have been caused by the Whittier fault, the 1987 earthquake, which registered 5.9 in magnitude, caused eight deaths and $358 million in property damage.However, seismic studies over the past several years uncovered the Puente Hills “blind-thrust” fault that came close to the surface under some of the area’s hills. Scientists now believe the “blind-thrust” fault helped create the topography of the Puente Hills and caused the Whittier quake, said Eldon Gath, president of Earth Consultants International, a geotech firm in Tustin.Flournoy pointed to damage estimates from a Puente Hills quake by Caltech professor Edward Field of the U.S. Geological Survey. In a May 2005 paper, Field warned of possible economic losses between $82 billion and $252 billion with 3,000 to 18,000 fatalities and 142,000 to 735,000 displaced households if the Puente Hills fault slipped. pam.wight@sgvn.com(562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029last_img read more