Iowa's bridges rank third worst in the country - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa's bridges rank third worst in the country

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TAMA COUNTY (KWWL) -

A new study of the nation's bridges ranks Iowa as the third most deficient state in the country. According to the researchers from Transportation for America, Iowa is home to more than 5,000 structurally deficient crossings. With budgets continuing to shrink engineers at the state, county, and city levels are left without the money to fix the majority of them.

"The next time that you drive any distance, at all, pay attention to how many bridges you drive across. And in short order, you'll find out the road doesn't amount to anything without the bridges that we drive over," said Tama County Engineer Lyle Brehm.

Brehm said, he doesn't need a national report to know many of his bridges are in bad shape.

"Most of them, on the county system at least, were designed a very long time ago. They weren't designed for the loads that we're carrying today at the very least," said Brehm.

About one-third of Tama County's bridges are classified as "structurally deficient." Meaning, they're generally safe for a passenger vehicle, but not for heavier trucks. That's how a farm-based community can venture into truly dangerous territory.

"If you see operators driving a grain cart loaded with 1,200 bushels of corn across, bridges are not designed for that. We will have a failure, and we can only cross our fingers that somebody will not be injured when that happens," said Brehm.

Without money to replace the bridges, more and more are ending up closed indefinitely. Brehm said he doesn't haven't the funds to replace them as they age.

"We need to be replacing four to six a year. There are not funds to replace four to six bridges per year," he explained.

The National Highway Fund will cover 80% of the cost to replace a bridge, but finding the matching funds can be a challenge.

"If your budget is strained, due to extreme weather events or due to rampant inflation, it's difficult to find the 20% to leverage the 80%," Brehm explained.

Tama county is certainly not the only area facing a budget strain. Which means, you'll likely be seeing a lot more bridges closed as the crossings continue to age.

You can take a look at the safety of the bridges in your area, by clicking here.

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