Lessons from Schoharie Creek

by Charles H. Thornton, Pres.; Thornton-Tomasetti, 614 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10011,
Richard L. Tomasetti, (M.ASCE), Sr. Vice Pres.; Thornton-Tomasetti, New York, NY,
Leonard M. Joseph, (M.ASCE), Assoc.; Thornton-Tomasetti, New York, NY,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1988, Vol. 58, Issue 5, Pg. 46-49

Document Type: Feature article


The failure of the Schoharie Creek Bridge in New York State occurred in April 1987. Several investigative panels were commissioned. The failure has been generally attributed to scour, which affected the stability of the bridge piers, but the event raises questions about inspection practices. This article summarizes the findings of several investigations and proposes a standard for bridge inspection. Among the proposals are checking codes adopted after a bridge is in service, checking changes in traffic usage that occur after a bridge is in service, and checking changes in the streamflow, whether due to upstream construction or other causes that might accelerate scour processes. Many other suggestions are also listed. The concept of a bridge inspector general is put forward, with the idea this independent department within a state's Department of Transportation should have the responsibility for bridge inspection. New technologies for bridge inspection are also described.

Subject Headings: Bridges | Inspection | Infrastructure construction | Rivers and streams | Bridge failures | Failure analysis | Scour | Standards and codes | New York | United States

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