Iowa Tops Structurally Deficient Bridge List Nationwide

The "blue bridge" near the Indian Creek Nature Center in eastern Linn County.  This...
The "blue bridge" near the Indian Creek Nature Center in eastern Linn County. This is one of 19 structurally deficient bridges in the county.(KCRG)
Published: Feb. 18, 2016 at 6:42 PM CST
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A new report from a transportation group shows Iowa has more structurally deficient bridges than any other state. That report came from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

That report noted 58,495 bridges in the “structurally deficient” category. That’s down from more than 63,000 two years ago. But Iowa, with 5,025 potential problem bridges, had the most in the nation in that category.

Structurally deficient does not mean unsafe.

It does mean one or more of a bridge’s key components is in poor condition and the bridge would be a candidate for significant repairs or replacement.

Steve Gannon, Linn County Engineer, said there is a simple reason Iowa always ranks near the top of the list when it comes to bridges facing potential problems. With more than 24,000 bridges in the state, Iowa simply has more bridges than most states. That 24,000 is about the same number as California—a state with a population many times that of Iowa.

Most of the bridges in that category are in rural area where not a lot of people drive every day.

One example is the Bloomington Road bridge over Big Creek east of Mt. Vernon. It’s undergoing a $600,000 replacement project that should open in July. Before the old bridge closed, traffic was a few dozen cars a day.

Still drivers hearing the phrase “structurally deficient” react with the comment “well, fix that.”

“I think it is a big deal, you never know when you’ll come upon a bridge that is deficient,” Carrie Messenger said.

The Iowa Department of Transportation oversees about 4,100 bridges on state roads and interstates. Fewer than 100 are considered deficient.

The vast majority in that category are isolated county bridges in rural areas with little traffic.

A 10 cent a gallon state gas tax hike last March added a million dollars to the secondary roads budget in Linn County.

Engineer Gannon said some of that new money was put in bridges, but Linn County actually doesn’t have the needs of some smaller counties.

“Linn County is in pretty good shape and compared to the 99 counties in all, Linn County is in as good a position as anybody,” Gannon said.

Only 19 Linn County roads are in the structurally deficient category now. Gannon said that number should drop to 11 after bridge projects in 2016.