Co l l apse Inves t i gat i on
When built in 1976, the Koror-Babeldaob Bridge in Palau was the longest single-span concrete box girder bridge in the world. On September 26,
1996, the 790-foot main span crashed into the sea, separating Koror from its sources of water and power, and from the Palau International Airport.
The Republic of Palau retainedWJE to determine why the bridge collapsed.
The cause of the failure was anything but obvious, and it took the combined efforts of structural engineers, materials scientists, and testing and
instrumentation specialists to understand why the collapse occurred. The Koror-Babeldaob Bridge investigation was one of the most fascinating
and challenging projects ever undertaken by the firm. WJE’s investigation and guidance were instrumental in helping the republic obtain funds
to replace the bridge.
Notes of Interest
• The Koror-Babeldaob Bridge connects the two main
islands of the Palau archipelago.
• The two-lane single cell box girder superstructure
of the original Koror-Babeldaob Bridge was built using
cast-in-place segments and a permanent mid-span hinge.
• The new bridge was funded by a Japanese Grant Aid from
the official development assistance program. Construction
of the new bridge began in 1997 and was completed in
December 2001. It was named the “Japan-Palau Friendshi
Bridge”at its opening ceremony on January 11, 2002.
The collapse was one of the most spectacular structural failures of the twentieth century—and the
setting was like no other. This investigation was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. – Gary Klein
A technically challenging investigation made even more so by the fact that WJE engineers had to
examine key elements of the failed structure 100 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. – Bill Nugent
WJE 50 Years