Christian Action Network

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Feds work to protect bridge cables against terror threats

(USA Today) WASHINGTON — The Homeland Security Department is looking for ways to fortify cables and connections on some of the nation’s largest bridges that could be inviting targets for terrorists.

A protective coating — dubbed by Homeland Security officials as “Superman’s blue suit” — could cover the steel cables that hold up the nation’s “cable-stayed” bridges. Such structures cross the Charles River in Boston and the Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“These are attractive structures, terrorists are out there, they’re blowing up bridges in Iraq, and we need to be preparing ourselves to make sure we protect our bridges and our people,” says Homeland Security’s Mary Ellen Hynes, a research chief in the department’s Science and Technology Division.

Cable-stayed bridges are known for their long spans and appealing sail-like designs.

There are now 44 of the bridges in 24 states and Puerto Rico.

Such bridges are growing in popularity with engineers and city planners because they are stronger and less expensive to build than others, and their design allows for longer spans that can handle more traffic.

Security experts, however, believe the bridges’ design makes them more vulnerable to terrorism. That’s because, unlike suspension bridges, cable-stayed spans have only one set of cables that connect directly to a highway.

That gives anyone aiming to weaken or take down a bridge with explosives ready access to the key parts of the structure holding it up.

Officials have been concerned about bridge security since New York City police in 2003 uncovered a terrorist plot to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. And although last month’s rush-hour bridge collapse into the Mississippi River in Minnesota was unrelated to terrorism, it was a stark reminder of potential danger.

Hynes says that’s why Homeland Security is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to test how vulnerable cables are to various explosives and to develop a way to shield them.

In August, researchers began tests at Fort Knox in Kentucky, blowing up bundles of steel cable, tightened as if they were carrying the load of a roadway at rush hour, to see what would happen.

Stan Woodson, a structural engineer with the corps who is directing the tests, won’t say what types of explosives researchers used, citing security reasons.

He said researchers are making “good progress” on the project and will do more tests this fall on the concrete towers that hold up the cables.

Hynes and Woodson say they hope the department, which is spending $2 million on the project so far, will come up with an inexpensive blast-resistant shield within a year that officials can then recommend to states and cities.

Hynes said many suspension bridges around the country already have been retrofitted with various forms of protective gear to help defend against terrorists.

Even so, how to protect cable-stayed bridges, she says, has been “a big, gaping knowledge gap.”

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September 14, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, Homeland security, news, personal, politics, random, religion, Terrorism, Terrorism In The U.S., Terrorism News, Uncategorized, War-On-Terror

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