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MoDOT Report: Missouri Has 922 Bridges in Poor Condition

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MODOT
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Missouri has 922 bridges listed in poor condition—that’s according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.            

The U.S. Department of Transportation classifies bridges on a scale from 1 to 9: a score of 7, 8, or 9 means that a bridge is in “Good” condition and a score of 5 or 6 means that a bridge is rated as “Fair.”  When a bridge reaches a score of 4 or lower, it’s considered in “Poor” condition and in need of repairs.

MoDOT State Bridge Engineer Dennis Heckman explained why Missouri has so many bridges that have fallen into the “Poor” category.

“A major component is the funding. We are 46th in revenue per mile of all of fifty states. So, you’re going to live with worse roads and more bad bridges. The other part of it is that we have a wave of bridges that were built in the 1950s and 60s. All the interstates were built in the 1950s and 60s. So, thousands of bridges are reaching 65 or 70 at about the same time. That has an impact on it as well,” Heckman said.

An estimated 6,000 bridges in Missouri are over 50 years old.  

“We can afford to repair or replace about 100 bridges per year on our state system, which is good. The problem is about 120 bridges fall onto that list each year. So, we’re falling 20 to 30 bridges behind every year,” Heckman said.

Despite these bridges being in need of repair, Heckman says this doesn’t mean that a bridge is unsafe. A bridge becomes unsafe when it reaches 2 or lower on the scale, which means that the bridge will be closed to the public.

When inspecting these bridges, experts look for rust in the metal supports that hold up the bridge. They also look for holes in the deck—which is what drivers pass across—and the culvert, which runs under the bridge.

According to MoDOT, inspectors have full jurisdiction to close a bridge immediately if they feel it is unsafe. These bridge closings happen around twice a month. All of Missouri’s 10,400 bridges are inspected every other year, officials say.

The state often contracts with private firms to work on the bridges. Several firms we reached out to declined to comment on the status of the state’s bridges.

Meanwhile, MoDOT’s Dennis Heckman says it’s important to keep everything in perspective.

“We are not trying to scare people by saying that there are 922 poor bridges. The fact is--we’re never going to have zero. We’re never going to be there. Our goal is to [bring] that down to maybe three or four hundred bridges, so we can invest more money into keeping the fair and good bridges fair and good so they don’t drop into poor,” Heckman said.

Missouri voters defeated a fuel tax on the ballot in November; some of the money from that would have gone to fund the state’s roads and infrastructure.

For more information visit www.modot.org.