Just two-and-a-half years after the completion of the most intense bridge program in the state’s history, the number of critical-condition bridges in Missouri is growing again.
After the latest round of bridge inspections, the number of bridges in critical need of attention has risen to 641—50 more than a year ago. State Bridge Engineer Dennis Heckman says that trend is likely to continue.
“When we completed the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program in 2012, we stemmed the tide for a while,” he said. “But we knew that the curve would start going up again. Safe & Sound made a dent, however it did not repair or replace all of the state’s bad bridges. Now with a shrinking construction budget, the number of bad bridges is on the rise again.”
Missouri has 10,376 bridges on state highways, including 209 that are more than 1,000 ft long. While the Safe & Sound program replaced or repaired more than 800 bridges over four years, 50 to 100 fall into the “critical condition” category each year. Critical condition bridges are the state’s worst and with continued deterioration are just one or two steps from being closed.
“To get ahead of the game, we should be replacing more than 100 bridges per year,” Heckman said. “Instead, our funding levels are only allowing us to replace about 30. In 10 years, we’ll have about 1,500 bridges on the critical condition list.”
MoDOT also has about 1,400 bridges that have posted weight limits. Many of those are already on the list of critical condition bridges and many others are on the path to being added to the list.
Heckman stressed, however, that “critical condition” doesn’t mean unsafe. “We aggressively inspect our bridges. When we discover a problem that is a safety issue, we close the bridge,” Heckman said.
MoDOT currently has four bridges that were unexpectedly closed due to problems found. To learn more about them, go to http://www.modot.org/Bridges/