Norway’s state highway department, Statens Vegvesen, has admitted in an internal memo that its in-house competence regarding bridges and geology is critically weak. On Saturday, its crews were planning to blow up a bridge that collapsed last month after the ground gave way beneath it.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the highway department hires in teachers, archaeologists and landscape architects to help handle bridge-building, because the department doesn’t have enough expertise. Siw Tyldum, who represents engineers at States Vegvesen, confirmed that “we often have to hire people who don’t have the technical competence needed.”
The bridge that collapsed made up a critical portion of the heavily trafficked E18 highway south of Oslo. Its collapse near Holmestrand has been blamed on excavation by a bulldozer that set off a landslide under the Skjeggestad Bridge. It will be razed in a controlled series of explosions Saturday afternoon, with plans calling for a new bridge to be built in its place.
Traffic will eventually be rerouted onto the two-lane portion of a parallel northbound bridge that’s intact. Meanwhile, traffic continues to be rerouted through the town of Holmestrand because Statens Vegvesen closed the old tunnel that diverted traffic from town when the new E18 opened a few years ago. The highway department now uses the tunnel for storage and is resisting demands to reopen it, claiming that alone would cost NOK 350 million. Motorists traveling down Norway’s southern coast thus face major delays for the foreseeable future.