What inspection report reveals about bridge in fatal Forest Park accident

ST. LOUIS – Fox 2/News 11 have obtained inspection reports showing the Forest Park bridge where a prominent St. Louis woman died in a freak accident this week, has been listed as "structurally deficient” for years.

The reports document the findings of a city/state inspection team that conducts yearly inspections in accordance with National Bridge Inspection Standards set forth by the federal government.

The Union-Lindell Blvd. bridge at the entrance to Forest Park was built in 1961 and looks every bit of 57 years old.

A report from April 2017 includes inspectors’ findings going back to 2008.  The inspection notes “exposed reinforcement” and “moderate section loss”, which refers to the “spalling” or chipping away of concrete protecting the substructure that spans the Forest Park Parkway.

It’s important to note, the concrete that’s falling away in spots does not actually “hold up” the bridge.

“You’ll see in these reports where they indicate there’s spalling concrete, pieces of concrete as big as my fist, that can be spalling off the bridge when it gets that old,” said Todd Waelterman, Director of Operations for the City of St. Louis.  “We go out on a regular basis and we hammer the loose stuff off.”

Still, in 2015, inspectors dropped the structure evaluation rating to a “3” on a 9-point scale; “3” meaning “basically intolerable – high priority for corrective action”.

The bridge received a “5” rating as recently as 2010, meaning “somewhat better than minimum adequacy to tolerate being left in place as is”.

The bridge under clearance got a “2” rating in 2015, meaning “basically intolerable – high priority for replacement”.

That may sound terrible but inspectors gave the bridge a sufficiency rating of 32.5%, putting it in the lower third of bad bridges but nowhere near the worst.

It takes a “0” rating to close a bridge.

Also, there’s nothing in the inspection reports about any problems with the railing on the bridge deck, which a driver hit Monday, knocking chunks of the railing about 15 down, onto the Forest Park Parkway and the car of Jan Torrisi-Mokwa, 58, a prominent businesswoman known for her charitable work and the wife of former St. Louis Police Chief, Joe Mokwa.

“We’re not talking about a 5-pound hunk of concrete falling on her (from the underside the bridge),” Waelterman said.  “We’re talking about a 2,500-pound slab (of railing) pushed off the bridge…I have no concerns about the structural soundness and safety.”

The bridge was also inspected this past April.  That report has not yet been finalized. The driver who hit the railing has yet to be cited or charged but the police accident reconstruction team has not yet finished its investigation.