The Contra Costa Times has a pretty good video of last night's I-580 overpass collapse that is sure to gridlock traffic in San Francisco that on a normal day is tough to navigate. In a terse one sentence advisory, the I-580 traffics condition report urges commuters to seek alternate routes. The collapse caused an inferno from an exploding gasoline truck that failed to negotiate a curve. The disaster is reminscent of the Big Dig ceiling collapse in Boston last summer that tied up traffic for months.
Should a highway be able to withstand such an unusual accident? Indeed, the engineering in the rebuilding of I-880 in Oakland from the 1989 earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter Scale factored in future earthquakes. But how often does a truck explode in California? Comparatively, quite a bit. I was in San Francisco when a gasoline truck exploded inside the Caldecott Tunnel on April 7, 1982, killing seven. In 2001, a truck driver rammed the California state Capital Building with a truck loaded with 65,000 cans of evaporated milk that caught fire.
So funky things like tanker explosions inevitably occur on California highways and byways. Should (or could) a highway be able withstand such an inferno? Hardly. Though, I am not a civil engineer, that would would be tantamount to making them withstand a bombing.