Welcome to my first day on the job as a bridge inspector for the State of West Virginia Division of Highways. We are in a bucket truck to go underneath a Highway 35 bridge in Mason County. Along the way, we are looking for rust, cracks, loose bolts and other potential trouble spots.
“Because whoever is here sees a lot more of the big picture than you will from photo graphs.” Reporter Q: What are we looking for up there? “Well mostly you’re look at the bolts are tight. and they’re all there,” said Paul Kelley, WV Bridge Inspector.
It’s something the traveling public doesn’t see, but these inspections are critical.
“Oh it’s very important. These bridge inspections are like when you go to the doctor for a routine check up. If you got anything wrong with you you’re going to know it and hopefully take care of it before you’ve got serious problems. And a bridge is the same way,” said Tracy Brown, WV Bridge Engineer.
In many ways we are like bridge detectives, looking for clues.
“You know we got to look at other indications. What’s going on on top? And what’s going on at them overhangs,” said Paul Kelley.
Because of the road bonds being approved by voters, West Virginia is hiring hundreds of highway workers, including inspectors. Candidates must be physically fit, technically oriented, and have good grammar for writing inspection reports. They will get significant training.
“Also part of our program, we send you to college. These guys take college courses and they end up with a college degree and the state feeds them through the program,” said engineer Tracy Brown,
West Virginia – and the nation – launched a massive bridge inspection program after the Silver Bridge at Point Pleasant collapsed 51 years ago.
“Oh absolutely. We’re always looking for good bridge inspectors, because it keeps the public safe. They don’t have to worry when they cross these structures because of the job these guys do,” said Paul Brown.
Reporter Q: This is important work? I mean this is stuff the average public doesn’t see?
“Yeah most people don’t even realize when they are crossing the bridge,” said bridge inspector Paul Kelley.
From down under, to over the top, it’s looks like I’m hired.
“So now I’ve trained to be a bridge inspector. If there is a job you’d like to see me do, just contact this TV station and have them put me on the job,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.