A transportation lobby group has issued a new report which ranks Iowa’s bridges as the third worst in the nation. Transportation for America rates 21.2 percent of the state’s 24,465 bridges as “deficient.” Most of the bridges in need of repair are maintained by cities and counties, according to Scott Neubauer, bridge maintenance and inspection engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation.
“Of the deficient bridges, the state only has 125 that are structurally deficient,” Neubauer says. “The remainder are on the lower volume county and city highways. So, as a state organization, we’ve made an effort to reduce our numbers and we have reduced our numbers over the past few years.”
While there are 125 bridges maintained by the state that are identified as structurally deficient, Neubauer says that’s down from roughly 250 just a few years ago. And although the bridges are rated as deficient, Neubauer says that doesn’t necessarily mean they pose an immediate threat to public safety.
The report shows the average age of Iowa’s bridges is 44 years old, while the average age of its deficient bridges is 69 years old.
“But, when you have bridges that are carrying very low volumes of traffic and bridges aren’t cheap to replace…so, counties tend to keep their bridges a little longer because they’re servicing the traffic there adequately,” Neubauer says.
“It’s hard for them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace something that’s really doing its job, even though it may be in the deficient category.” Most rural Iowa bridges that are deemed deficient are marked with warning signs about weight limits. Neubauer says any bridge that can’t handle a load of at least three tons will be closed.
“There is a limit to what’s allowed out there,” Neubauer says. The Transportation for America report states about 1.7 million vehicles travel daily on deficient bridges in Iowa. The report is likely to spur another push for increases in road funding revenues in Iowa.