Report: Iowa has most ‘structurally deficient’ bridges in US

The White House estimates the Iowa Department of Transportation got 305-million dollars in funding under the federal Infrastructure Bill.
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 6:09 PM CDT
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AMES, Iowa - Bad bridges - There are thousands of them in Iowa. A new report from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, an industry trade group ranks Iowa as having the most structurally deficient bridges in the US.

Nearly 1.5 million people cross the 6,616 bridges that need to be replaced every day. The Iowa Department of Transportation says that number doesn’t tell the whole story.

“Well, we’ve been number one in that category for a few years unfortunately,” Scott Neubauer with the Iowa Department of Transportation says they’re aware of the amount of bridges that need to be replaced, but says most of those bridges don’t have much traffic on them. “The majority of those bridges that are poor condition are on the local highway systems, so the traffic volumes are very low on those structures. Half of the poor bridges in Iowa have less than 35 vehicles a day,” Neubauer said.

Part of the reason Iowa ranks so high is that Iowa has more bridges than most states - mostly going over small creeks and culverts - but the low population makes repairs hard to pay for. There’s an average of 120 people per bridge in Iowa.

“Asking 120 to pay for a 500 to a million dollar bridge replacement is a tough thing to do here in Iowa so we do the best we can at maintaining the bridges in the best condition they can be for the traffic they see,” Neubauer said.

Funding isn’t the only problem.

The Iowa Department of Transportation got funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, but with 99 counties, there’s not enough to make a noticeable dent in replacements.

“You have to have the construction companies and personnel to do that work and for the number of poor bridges we have in Iowa, there’s no way you could do that many bridges in any reasonable amount of time,” Neubauer said.

Neubauer says that though that number one statistic is eye-catching, Iowans shouldn’t be afraid to cross Iowa bridges.