The bridge that collapsed and sent eight people to their deaths was in better shape than many of the aging bridges nationwide, said Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner.

Skinner went to the site of the bridge collapse on Wednesday. Four cars and a tractor-trailer plunged into the Hatchie River when a section of the 55-year-old bridge collapsed Saturday 50 miles north of Memphis."There are bridges that are in more need of repair than this one," said Skinner during his visit.

Sen. Jim Sasser, D-Tenn., who accompanied Skinner, said more than 200,000 of the 575,000 bridges in the United States are classified as deficient. Those weaknesses, Sasser said, range "from minor deficiencies to major deficiencies that could lead to tragedies similar to the one we see here."

The collapse left a gaping hole in the two northbound lanes of U.S. 51, but a newer companion bridge for two southbound lanes was undamaged. The southbound bridge was closed for inspection but was expected to reopen for two-way traffic Thursday or Friday.