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Advocacy Group Says 154 Bridges Deficient

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The Mississippi River floods in Hastings, Minn. in 2010. (credit: Kurt Czech)

The Mississippi River floods in Hastings, Minn. in 2010. (credit: Kurt Czech)

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Dozens of bridges in the Twin Cities area need significant repairs, a transportation advocacy group said Wednesday.

Transportation for America’s report, based on Federal Highway Administration data, said 154 bridges are “structurally deficient’ in the metro area. Those bridges carry 1.8 million vehicles every day.

But the group’s report also said the area’s bridges are in better condition than the national average. One in nine bridges in the U.S. was found to be deficient, compared with one in 17 in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

After the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis four years ago, the state began an extensive bridge repair and replacement program. State transportation officials say about half of the state’s bridges identified in 2008 as critical will be repaired by the end of this construction season, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported (http://bit.ly/q0PXKm ).

Classifying a bridge as structurally deficient doesn’t mean it’s unsafe or likely to collapse. It means the span is restricted to lighter vehicles or requires repairs and must be monitored, inspected and maintained. A “fracture critical” bridge, such as the old 35W bridge, is one in which the failure of any number of structural elements could bring the whole bridge down.

“I’d say MnDOT is making good progress in carrying out the major bridge program that accelerated the repair and replacement of these state highway bridges,” said Nancy Daubenberger, chief bridge engineer at the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Work on 59 of the 140 bridges classified as either structurally deficient or fracture critical will be completed this year, Daubenberger said. The remaining bridges are scheduled to be replaced or rehabilitated by June 2018.

Some 8.4 percent of Minnesota’s 13,735 state and locally owned bridges are structurally deficient, she said. Only 2.8 percent of the 3,886 state bridges are on that troubled list, while 10.6 percent of the 9,849 city, county and township owned bridges are deficient.

Pittsburgh’s bridges are in the worst shape of any major city, the report said. More than 30 percent of its spans are deficient. The Twin Cities ranks 18th among the 29 largest metro areas in percentage of deficient bridges.

“America’s infrastructure is showing its age,” the report concluded. More than 69,000 bridges across the country are structurally deficient, according to the federal data. The price tag to fix them all is $70.9 billion.

The report called for a fundamental policy shift to require states to take care of the bridges they have before they spend federal repair dollars on building new roads and bridges they can’t afford to maintain.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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