Two of the four state-maintained bridges in Douglas County that are considered "structurally deficient" are slated for repair or replacement during the next four years.
But just because the other two aren't, state transportation officials say, doesn't mean the traveling public is in peril.
"If it was a situation where there was a real danger, that bridge would be posted and it wouldn't carry traffic over it, because safety is our main concern," said Stan Whitley, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Added Kim Stich, another KDOT spokesperson: "Structurally deficient does not mean unsafe."
Such assurances are on the minds of transportation officials this week, after The Associated Press studied nationwide records to find that 28 percent of the nation's bridges are considered deficient -- a category that means they need repairs, cannot adequately handle traffic loads or do not meet safety standards.
A similar percentage applies to state-maintained bridges in Douglas County. Of the 45 bridges cared for by KDOT, Whitley said, four are rated "structurally deficient" and nine are considered "functionally obsolete."
That's 29 percent of the bridges, and of those only three -- fewer than 7 percent of the state's total spans in the county -- have money set aside to make necessary repairs or replacements.
Of the structurally deficient bridges -- an assessment based on their inability to carry legal loads -- two are set for replacement beginning in 2008:
- Along U.S. Highway 59 over the west fork of a Tauy Creek drainage path, 1.1 miles north of U.S. Highway 56. The new bridge would be part of a new freeway alignment for U.S. 59.
- Along U.S. 59 over a Wakarusa River drainage path, three miles south of Lawrence.
Two others are not scheduled for any major work: along U.S. Highway 24 across Mud Creek, 2.3 miles east of the U.S. 59 junction; and along Irving Hill Road, across Iowa Street just west of Kansas University residence halls.
Of the state's nine functionally obsolete bridges in the county, one is set for replacement in 2008: along U.S. 59 across the west fork of Tauy Creek, just north of the Franklin County line.
A bridge is considered functionally obsolete if its design prevents it from meeting current standards. Common problems include being too narrow or lacking an ability to drain water properly.
"Just because it's obsolete doesn't mean it's going to fall down," Whitley said.
Another note about bridges: Not all of them are made of structural steel, cut stone or wooden planks. A structure is considered a bridge if it stretches for at least 20 feet, whether it's a traditional span across a raging river or a typical road running atop a couple metal drainage pipes.
Because of the inclusion of road-topped drainage structures -- box culverts and the like -- Kansas ranks third on the list of state's with the most bridges, Stich said. In all, the state maintains about 4,800 bridges, of which 836 are considered deficient.