The proposed federal jobs bill would include roughly $500 million to improve roads and bridges in Iowa. Many county engineers in the state say the repairs are desperately needed.
In northwest Iowa, Plymouth County Engineer Tom Rohe says because of rising costs, the county’s budget can no longer keep up with the demand for maintenance. “Our income has not increased…we’re probably not doing resurfacing work at a rate that is going to keep up with the paved system and keep it in satisfactory condition,” Rohe said.
In Plymouth County along, there 460 concrete or steel bridges, 120 wooden bridges, 365 miles of paved roads and over 1,000 miles of gravel or dirt roads. Rohe says most of the wooden bridges were built in the 1960s to early 70s.
“We are at the end of the life span of many of those bridges,” Rohe said. “We do quite a bit of maintenance each year just trying to extend the life of some of the wooden bridges a few more years until we can get to total replacement.” It costs the county about $1 million for every mile of pavement for a complete new construction.
Replacing a 20 foot long bridge costs about $2 million. Rohe notes, in recent years, Iowa roads and bridges have seen a substantial increase in the number and weight of truck and farm traffic. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who’s been in Iowa in recent days touting the jobs bill, says one out of every five bridges in Iowa are “structurally deficient and in need of repair.” That’s twice the national average.
By Denis Morrice, KLEM, LeMars