MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After the 35W Bridge collapsed, MnDOT increased bridge inspectors by 50 percent, introduced new inspection technology, required an independent review of new, complicated bridges and limited the weight on a bridge during construction.

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In 2008, the state legislature decided to spend $2.5 billion over 10 years on state bridges. Big projects include the Lafayette Bridge (Highway 52) in St. Paul, the Hastings Bridge and Highway 43 in Winona.

Nancy Daubenberger, MnDOT’s State Bridge Engineer, says the funds have made a difference.

“The money has helped. We can do a lot of good things now with this dedicated bridge program,” Daubenberger said.

In 2007, there were 172 structurally deficient and/or fracture critical bridges in Minnesota. In 2012, that number was 159, or 3 percent of all state bridges. That percentage ranks Minnesota as ninth in country for troubled bridges.

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In those five years, some bridges were repaired or replaced and others came up for repairs.

“We fully expect that we’ll continue to have structurally deficient bridges on our system, but we want to keep them at that low level,” she said.

MnDOT says it will repair or replace another 50 state bridges in the next five years. But the billions of dollars for state bridges will run out in 2018, which is why Margaret Donahoe, executive director of Minnesota Transportation Alliance, is fighting for more.

“We still have a lot of bridges that are under the jurisdiction of counties, cities and townships that still need a lot of work,” Donahoe said.

Two thousand of the state’s 19,000 bridges are 50 years are older. But MnDOT doesn’t want to replace all structurally deficient bridges right away.

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“If we got to the point where we are replacing every structurally deficient bridge, we’d probably be replacing bridges before their time,” Daubenberger said.

Heather Brown