DES MOINES — The director of the Iowa Department of Transportation says the report by American Road and Transportation Builders Association ranking Iowa number one in poor bridges doesn’t tell the whole story.
Director Scott Marler says there are 4558 structurally deficient bridges or poor bridges in the state — but that doesn’t mean they are unsafe. He says there are only two types of bridges in Iowa, a safe bridge or a closed bridge.
Marler says Iowa ranks at the top in part because of the number of bridges here. “In terms of total bridges, we’re seventh in the nation. For population our size, that means we got a lot of bridges. Why? Well we’ve got an extensive grid network across Iowa and our farm market system, we’re really moving a lot of product to a global market,” Marler says.
He says a majority of the poor bridges are on the rural road system. “Those bridges carry in many cases, very little traffic,” he says. “In fact, 50 percent of those bridges carry fewer than 35 vehicles per day. And 74% carry fewer than 100 vehicles.”
Marler says counties are faced with significant and difficult decisions about which bridges to replace. He says only 26 bridges on the primary road system that the DOT oversees are in poor condition. Marler says they’ve reduced the number of poor bridges from 256 in 2006, and 21 of the 26 poor bridges on the primary system are slated for repair in the next five year road improvement program.