Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge was in “fair condition” prior to its collapse early Tuesday based on its most recent inspection from May 2023, according to a copy of a summary report from the National Bridge Inventory reviewed by The Baltimore Banner.

A “fair condition” rating indicates “that all primary structural elements are sound but may have minor section loss, cracking, spalling or scour,” which means erosion and wear from water currents, according to a manual used to interpret scores by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. On a scale of zero to nine, with nine being “excellent” and zero being “failed condition,” the bridge earned a five, one step above being deemed in “poor condition” and one below “satisfactory condition.”

The bridge’s condition and soundness has been scrutinized in the aftermath of the collapse, with some engineers raising questions about its design. While some have argued that no bridge could be prepared to withstand a direct hit from a heavy container ship, others have said that the 47-year-old bridge — which was approaching the 50-year mark that most U.S. bridges are designed for — might have benefited from extra protective features.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the bridge’s failure a “unique circumstance.”

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“I do not know of a bridge that has been constructed to withstand a direct impact of a vessel of this size,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

The summary report showed that the bridge received mostly adequate marks in a survey of its condition. For example, the bridge’s channel protection was in need of minor repairs, and received a score indicating “minor damage” to its river control devices and minor amounts of drift. The bridge’s deck, superstructure and substructure were found to be in “satisfactory” condition.

The four-lane truss bridge was scheduled to be inspected every two years, according to the summary report, which could be due to the condition to the bridge at the time of inspection. After the deadly Minneapolis bridge collapse in 2007, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration said the Key Bridge was inspected once a year.

The Maryland Transportation Authority, the operator of the bridge, has not provided a copy of the detailed inspection report, and has not answered questions about the bridge’s protective systems, or whether it was designed to withstand impact from a container ship.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said Tuesday that the bridge was fully “up to code.”

This article may be updated.

Hallie Miller covers housing for The Baltimore Banner. She's previously covered city and regional services, business and health at both The Banner and The Baltimore Sun.

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