Filed Under: U.S.

The struggle to rebuild Iowa’s crumbling bridges

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Iowa’s 23,799 bridges are aging faster than they can be repaired. Replacing them can be costly and time consuming.

“We have bridge inspectors going around the state continuously inspecting the bridges and we classify them as good, fair and poor,” said James Nelson, director of the Bridges and Structures Bureau for Iowa’s Department of Transportation.

Nelson said of the 4,195 bridges on the state’s primary system, 30 of them are classified as “poor”.

“It’s important to note, that a poor bridge is not an unsafe bridge. A poor bridge just means there’s something on it that we would like to repair, rehabilitate or even potentially replace,” Nelson said.

Officials say the state has a three-prong-approach to the problem: stewardship, preservation, and investment. While each of those help keep Iowa’s existing bridges functioning, it’s the funding that allows the state to invest in materials that can last a lifetime.

“Iowa is a challenging situation…our weathering cycles, hot summers and cold winters, and our use of de-icing chemicals can really deteriorate bridges. We really do have a high need for maintenance and repair of bridges, and so we’re working on that,” Nelson said.

New state and federal dollars have been allocated for some of Iowa’s latest infrastructure projects.

“Our new five-year transportation improvement program is a $4.2 billion program. That’s the largest program we’ve had in the history of Iowa DOT. And so we’re using that money to fix our highways and bridges”, Nelson said.

But how much of these spending plans are going to rural counties, where the majority of the state’s bridges are crumbling? Find out in Straight Arrow News’ next report on Thursday, October 27.

JAMES NELSON | DIRECTOR BRIDGES AND STRUCTURES BUREAU, IOWA DOT: “WE HAVE BRIDGE INSPECTORS GOING AROUND THE STATE CONTINUOUSLY INSPECTING THE BRIDGES AND WE CLASSIFY THEM AS GOOD, FAIR AND POOR.”

MAHMOUD BENNETT: THAT’S JAMES NELSON – HE’S THE DIRECTOR OF THE BRIDGES AND STRUCTURES BUREAU FOR IOWA’S DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.

HE SAYS OF THE 4,195 BRIDGES ON THE STATE’S PRIMARY SYSTEM, 30 OF THEM ARE CLASSIFIED AS “POOR”.

NELSON: “IOWA IS A CHALLENGING SITUATION, WITH OUR WEATHERING CYCLES HOT SUMMERS AND COLD WINTERS AND OUR USE OF DE-ICING CHEMICALS THAT CAN REALLY DETERIORATE BRIDGES, WE REALLY DO HAVE A HIGH NEED FOR MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR OF BRIDGES, AND SO WE’RE WORKING ON THAT.”

BENNETT: OFFICIALS SAY THE STATE HAS A THREE-PRONG-APPROACH TO THE PROBLEM – STEWARDSHIP, PRESERVATION, AND *INVESTMENT*

WHILE EACH OF THOSE HELP KEEP IOWA’S EXISTING BRIDGES FUNCTIONING – IT’S THE FUNDING THAT ALLOWS THE STATE TO INVEST IN MATERIALS THAT CAN LAST A LIFETIME

NEW STATE AND FEDERAL DOLLARS HAVE BEEN ALLOCATED FOR SOME OF IOWA’S LATEST INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS

NELSON: “OUR NEW FIVE-YEAR TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM IS A $4.2 BILLION DOLLAR PROGRAM THAT’S THE LARGEST PROGRAM WE’VE HAD IN THE HISTORY OF IOWA DOT AND SO WE’RE USING THAT MONEY TO FIX OUR HIGHWAYS AND BRIDGES.

BENNETT: BUT HOW MUCH OF THESE MASSIVE SPENDING PLANS ACTUALLY GO TO THE MOST REMOTE BRIDGES IN IOWA  – AND IS MONEY JUST ONE SIDE OF THE COIN? FIND OUT IN PART 2.

Iowa’s 23,799 bridges are aging faster than they can be repaired. Replacing them can be costly and time consuming.

“We have bridge inspectors going around the state continuously inspecting the bridges and we classify them as good, fair and poor,” said James Nelson, director of the Bridges and Structures Bureau for Iowa’s Department of Transportation.

Nelson said of the 4,195 bridges on the state’s primary system, 30 of them are classified as “poor”.

“It’s important to note, that a poor bridge is not an unsafe bridge. A poor bridge just means there’s something on it that we would like to repair, rehabilitate or even potentially replace,” Nelson said.

Officials say the state has a three-prong-approach to the problem: stewardship, preservation, and investment. While each of those help keep Iowa’s existing bridges functioning, it’s the funding that allows the state to invest in materials that can last a lifetime.

“Iowa is a challenging situation…our weathering cycles, hot summers and cold winters, and our use of de-icing chemicals can really deteriorate bridges. We really do have a high need for maintenance and repair of bridges, and so we’re working on that,” Nelson said.

New state and federal dollars have been allocated for some of Iowa’s latest infrastructure projects.

“Our new five-year transportation improvement program is a $4.2 billion program. That’s the largest program we’ve had in the history of Iowa DOT. And so we’re using that money to fix our highways and bridges”, Nelson said.

But how much of these spending plans are going to rural counties, where the majority of the state’s bridges are crumbling? Find out in Straight Arrow News’ next report on Thursday, October 27.

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