|

Iowa bridges third-worst in the nation

BY LAURA ARNY and MARGARET MURPHY | JUNE 30, 2011 7:20 AM

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

At first glance, the two-lane bridge over Wapsinonoc Creek seems up-to-date. But a closer inspection reveals rusted bolts, graffiti, and crooked beams. More than 4,000 cars travel across it each day, and it has not been renovated since 1956.

The bridge, located in Muscatine County, is one of 5,000 bridges in Iowa classified as structurally deficient, giving Iowa the third-worst bridge conditions in the nation, according to a recently released report.

Although the report said bridges all over America are in a sad state of repair and getting worse, Iowa’s bridge problem stands out by several measures.

More than 40 percent of Iowa’s spans are more than 50 years old, which is the normal design life span of a bridge.

Nearly 22 percent — more than one in every five bridges — are structurally deficient, and that is almost double the national average. For comparison, the states doing the best job of keeping their bridges safe are Nevada, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Utah, where deficient bridges range from 2.2 percent to 4.5.

The report “The Fix We’re in For: The State of Our Nation’s Bridges,” was released in late March by Transportation for America, a group mainly concerned with maintaining the nation’s current infrastructure, according to spokesman David Goldberg.

The report’s findings put Pennsylvania and Oklahoma as the only states with a higher percentage of structurally deficient bridges than Iowa.

“The nation’s bridges are aging and traffic demands are increasing, even as state and local revenues are shrinking,” the report said. And the problem is likely to keep getting worse, because state-level needs have nearly doubled since 2006.

The report called on the U.S. Congress “to ensure that [federal] funds sent to states for bridge repair are used only for that purpose.”

And it warned states that deferring maintenance of bridges is not only a safety risk but a false savings. “Deferring maintenance of bridges and highways can cost three times as much as preventive repairs,” it said.

On the list of the worst 100 counties, Iowa holds 17 of the spots, more than any other state, with Adams County being the 10th-worst in the country. Almost 47 percent of Adams County’s bridges are structurally deficient. Winnebago, Davis, Lucas, and Plymouth Counties not far behind. The counties with the safest bridges are Clinton and Jackson.

“We try, as money permits, to keep improving them,” said Eldon Rike, the bridge engineer for Adams County.

Out of the 24,722 bridges that motorists use in Iowa, 5,371 of them are considered structurally deficient, according to the study, meaning engineers have rated one of the three bridge components at a 4 or less on a scale from 0 to 9, 9 being the best condition. These numbers then contribute to the overall condition of the bridge, which is on a scale from 0 to 100. This number is called the “sufficiency rating.”

“We’ve known about this for a while,” said Norm McDonald, the director of the Office of Bridges and Structures for the Iowa Department of Transportation. “We use the funding and do the best we can.”

This story was produced by IowaWatch.org, the nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism.


> Share your thoughts! Click here to write a Letter to the Editor.


comments powered by Disqus



 
Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.