DOT: More than 60% of Iowa’s bridges ‘fair’ or ‘poor’

By: - June 17, 2021 1:23 pm

The infrastructure proposal awaiting Senate action would provide $351 billion over five years for highway and bridge funding. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

More than 60% of Iowa’s bridges remain in fair or poor condition, a new state report shows. 

The Iowa Department of Transportation noted that even bridges rated as “poor” are not necessarily unsafe. “The poor category does not indicate there is a safety issue,” the DOT report said. “Poor bridges have deterioration or damage that may need repair or replacement in the near future.”

If a bridge is found to be unsafe, it will be closed, DOT officials wrote. In the most recent year of inspections, 348 state and local bridges were closed.

The deterioration of many Iowa bridges was part of the reason state lawmakers and then-Gov. Terry Branstad approved a 10-cent increase in fuel taxes in 2015, generating $200 million a year for road and bridge projects. 

In its new report, the DOT highlighted that the number of “poor” bridges on state highways stands at 32, down from 237 in 2009 and three fewer than last year. Half of those bridges are over 43 years old. 

However, Iowa’s counties have 4,272 bridges rated “poor,” and the cities have 193. Nearly 80% of those bridges carry fewer than 100 vehicles a day, the state reported.

Last year, 300 more local bridges were rated “poor.”

Overall, Iowa has 4,497 bridges rated “poor” and 9,996 listed as “fair” for a total of 60.8%. Another 9,340 bridges are considered in “good” condition based on inspections required by the Federal Highway Administration.

President Joe Biden eyed bridge projects as one element of his original $2 trillion infrastructure package, which has been scaled back as members of Congress seek a compromise.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.