Iowa leads country in "structurally deficient" bridges, report says

Published: Apr. 9, 2019 at 7:04 AM CDT
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Rural infrastructure is declining and Iowa leads the nation in poor bridges, according to a report.

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association released an analysis of the U.S. Department of Transportation's 2018 National Bridge Inventory database, looking at the bridges in the U.S.

Iowa is number one in the country with 4,675 "structurally deficient" bridges. That's 19.4 percent of the state's bridges.

Iowa makes up 10 percent of the nation's estimated 47,000 deficient bridges.

To find out what bridges are most in need of attention, officials look at three main areas: the deck, substructure and superstructure.

Only one section has to be deemed 'deficient' for the bridge to be called "structurally deficient." For this study, on a scale from zero to nine, a bridge has to be rated four or lower to get a deficient rating.

However, the report highlights the nation has made progress in addressing bridge challenges.

In Iowa, a fuel tax passed several years ago to fund infrastructure, and incremental changes have been made.

Mike Steenhoek with the Soy Transportation Coalition says there is a lot of work left to do.

"There needs to be some attention in the foreseeable future. What it can often result in is a bridge will be load restricted, or posted, sometimes closed altogether," he said.

He suggests rural communities should take a closer look at their local bridges to makes sure they know the allowable weight limit.

But ultimately, Steenhoek said the nation's agriculture is impacted by bridge deterioration.

"That mode of transportation, getting product from farm to the original delivery location, rural bridges are very integral to that. The fact we have such a problem when it comes to our rural bridge inventory is a source of concern for farmers," he said.