Archive for Friday, August 3, 2007

5 bridges in county ‘deficient’

KDOT says structures are not unsafe, but they need to be monitored

August 3, 2007


Several bridges in Douglas County need repairs

Two days after the deadly Minneapolis bridge collapse, we're getting a clearer picture on which bridges in Douglas County need special attention. Enlarge video

There's definitely a batch of bridges in Douglas County to keep a close eye on.

Kansas Department of Transportation leaders on Friday confirmed there are five bridges that have been rated as "structurally deficient," the same category that the collapsed Minneapolis bridge was rated.

Some of the Douglas County bridges are along the more heavily traveled routes in the county. KDOT leaders, though, were urging motorists to keep the rating in perspective.

"It means that we have to watch them closer," said Don Whisler, KDOT bridge management engineer. "It generally means they will be on a one-year inspection cycle instead of a two-year cycle. But it doesn't mean the bridges are unsafe."

The state bridges listed as structurally deficient are:

¢ Both underpasses at Sixth and Iowa streets that take motorists to and from the west Lawrence interchange for the Kansas Turnpike. Those two bridges both scored a 32 in a 100-point system. About 25,000 to 26,000 cars per day use the underpasses.

¢ The bridge on U.S. Highway 24/40 that crosses Mud Creek near Lawrence Municipal Airport. It scored a 58, and carries about 7,700 cars per day.

¢ The bridge on U.S. Highway 59 just north of the Wakarusa River. It scored a 21, and carries about 10,200 cars per day.

¢ The bridge along Highway 56 in west Baldwin City that crosses the east fork of Tauy Creek. That bridge had a rating of 11.5, the lowest in the county. It carries about 5,000 cars per day.

"That is not an unusual number of bridges for your type of area," Whisler said. "I would say that's probably a reasonable number for us to deal with."

'Definitely has problems'

The KDOT list is in addition to the two Kansas River bridges on the Kansas Turnpike near Lawrence. Structural issues already have caused engineers to schedule those massive bridges for replacement. The $140 million project is expected to begin next year.

KDOT leaders conceded that some of the bridges' scores were very low. With the Baldwin City bridge, which scored 11.5, it is hard to come to any other conclusion.

"That bridge definitely has problems," Whisler said.

But he said the score of a bridge is not a good way for the public to assess the chances of a bridge failing like the one in Minnesota. That's because only about half of the bridge's score is determined by structural issues. The other half of the score is related to whether the bridge is too narrow, the condition of the road leading to the bridge and other issues not related to its structural integrity.

"I think people should realize that you just don't run out and replace a bridge because it is called structurally deficient," said Keith Browning, Douglas County director of public works. "That's not what it means."

Two replacements in works

But the label does mean that engineers need to start considering future replacement or repair of the bridges. Two of the five state bridges are scheduled to be replaced, not including the Baldwin City bridge, which has the lowest score. Instead, the Mud Creek bridge and the U.S. Highway 59 bridge near the Wakarusa River are scheduled to be replaced in 2008.

Whisler said the state uses a complex system to evaluate which bridges should be replaced first. It factors in the bridge's sufficiency score, amount of traffic and detour options, among several other issues.

"What I can tell you is that we try to get the most bang for our buck and put the money where we need it most," Whisler said.

KDOT leaders on Friday weren't able to provide details on how much money they spend annually to replace bridges, or how many bridges per year they reasonably can replace.

They did say much of the money comes from the state's comprehensive transportation program. Before the comprehensive transportation program passed in the early 1990s, the state had 1,500 bridges that were deficient. Now, the number is 541.

Area bridges need help too

In addition to bridges on state roads, there are eight bridges on county and township roads that are rated as structurally deficient. One - along County Route 442 east of Eudora - is in the process of being replaced. Another - along East 100 Road near the Shawnee County line in southwest Douglas County - is scheduled to be bid for replacement in January. A third is the Kansas River bridge at Lecompton that is currently having its deck replaced.

The others are:

¢ A bridge on a small road serving two residences near North 900 and East 900 Roads near Lone Star.

¢ A 1920s-era bridge on a dead-end road near East 450 road north of Clinton Lake.

¢ A bridge southeast of Eudora near the Johnson County line.

¢ A bridge on North 1700 near the Shawnee County line.

¢ And the bridge that crosses the Wakarusa River on County Route 1057, between Eudora and Lawrence south of Kansas Highway 10.

Browning said that bridge is the largest bridge for which the county does not yet have a replacement plan. It likely will cost more than $2 million to replace, and could be significantly more if area planners want to use that road as part of a system to connect Highway 59 south of Lawrence with Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence.

In addition to the state and county bridges listed as structurally deficient, there are about 20 other bridges in the county that are listed as functionally obsolete. Those bridges don't have structural issues that could lead to a collapse, but they may have safety problems, such as being too narrow to carry traffic volumes.


average 10 years, 5 months ago

One obvious question: will the Perry-Lecompton bridge still be 'structurally deficient' after this current deckwork?

allateup 10 years, 5 months ago

Average, I also wondered the same thing. It would be very interesting to know the "score" of the Lecompton bridge when it is completed.

KsTwister 10 years, 5 months ago

It just makes no sense that KDOT would dole out dollars for roundabouts and traffic calming devices with more priority than bridges. Where is accountability?? Kansas as stupid as you think.

ASBESTOS 10 years, 5 months ago

THis is what happens when politicians and politically connected developers put "development growth" (more houses and strip malls and WalMarts) before infrastructure.

Infrastructure IS part of the governments business.

A development needs to stand on it's own merits, or it does not need to be done. THe developers need to pay for their own pieces of this and the government will HELP them (not foot the bill) for their infrastructure improvements ONLY AFTER our SHARED AND PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS HAVE BEEN MET!!!

This is where our political leaders of both parties have shown themselves to be totally out of touch and not capable of holding the offices in which they serve. Go round and look at the curbs in Manhattan, Topeka, Salina, Lawrence, Wichita, etc. The existing infrastructure gets neglected and the main political push is on the New Developments and taking election money from developers. Those curbs and potholes are the things the governments is responsible for, not the damn developers shortfall on a project.

Though, the politicians do not like maintenance bills either, no one ever came back as an election slogan "I maintain the Infrastructure". The winner of the election is the one that beings a "red Lobster" to town. That is what we as consumers of politicians need to remember.

classclown 10 years, 5 months ago

On the plus side, the bridge spanning Iowa down by the theater appears structurally sound.

63BC 10 years, 5 months ago

Didn't the Governor want to divert turnpike tolls away from bridge repair? Is this still her stated preference?

tweetybird2 10 years, 5 months ago

I will be calling the county on Monday to find out the answer to that question. I have family that will be using that bridge everyday.

Sigmund 10 years, 5 months ago

So lets recap shall we? Keep in mind the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed was rated a 50/100: Two bridges at 6th and Iowa rate 32/100 @ 25,500 cars/day; Mud Creek bridge 58/100 @ 7,700 cars/day; Wakarusa River bridge 21/100 @ 10,200 cars/day; Tauy Creek bridge 11.5 @ 5,000 cars/day (must have got a half point for perfect attendance).

These bridges are all safe because; this is not an unusual number of bridges for our type of area, only half of the low score is for structural integrity and the other half means it too narrow to be safe, KDOT is replacing two Kansas Turnpike bridges next year, the bridge with the lowest score is NOT scheduled to be replaced, the bridge with the highest score is scheduled to be replaced, and the system KDOT uses to evaluate bridge replacement is complex.

Using a highly complex system, I would rate KDOT a 12/100. Lacking in integrity and "definitely has problems."

lunacydetector 10 years, 5 months ago

these are the same people who love roundabouts AND decided the initial west 6th street widening needed to be 4 lanes only with no center turn lane only to have the road ripped up 5 years later to install a center turn lane.

KsTwister 10 years, 5 months ago

And even if only ONE car travels a bridge and it falls----its still a failure----for everyone.

purplesage 10 years, 5 months ago

Engineering jargon should be adapted so as to say what it means and mean what it says. Obviously, "structurally deficient" CAN mean susceptible to falling into the river (the gorge, the railroad track, the other highway) beneath.

There are astronomical profits to be made on bridge and highway construction. The money to pay for this is still in your pockets. What is the tax on gasoline now? .They just raised the turnpike tolls.

This rebuilding needs to be done with a view to long-term integrity. I recall an article a few years back on Europe's approach to highway construction. They spent about 10% more upfront but got highways that lasted many times longer, especially in terms of the roadway surface enduring the elements. The same may well be true in the strength and corrosion resistance of the steel used to support bridges.

I understood that the Lecompton bridge would not only have a new deck but that the support would have increased redundancy after this project.

jlw2000 10 years, 5 months ago

Too bad we don't have the Intrastructure and Development Coordinator anymore. Seems to me his job was to make sure the city got what it needed to function smoothly.

Janet Lowther 10 years, 5 months ago

Ok, engineers, it is time to turn loose the details. We know you have a list of the factors, scores for those factors, and the weights those factors are given the total score. Come on, cough 'em up.

We understand you were working on a total functional score to sell politicians, but that isn't good enough in the present circumstances.

"I used to say my border collie was smarter than the average politician, 'till I decided that was insulting. To the dog."

Kat Christian 10 years, 5 months ago

WHY is it that preventative safety issues are ignored UNTIL SOMETHING AWLFUL HAPPENS, ie. MN bridge collapse? Now everyone in the country wants to check the bridges for safety more often WHEN THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING THIS ALL ALONG. What the H*!! is wrong with this Nation? It seems this country is operating in zombie mode until something upsets the momentum when it WAKES UP then they ACT ON IT. This is sad. And I can't believe what I'm reading here that the "Gov'nr didn't want to use toll money for bridge repair" that "the highest score bridge is the one getting replaced" and "roundabouts were a priority over bridge inspection and repair". OMG Kansas is as stupid as it is.

I wonder how safe the bridge to North Lawrence is? I know a couple times I was on it and it was swaying a little too much for my taste. Has anyone else experienced this? Afterall weren't they built in the 50s?

Sagecasey 10 years, 5 months ago

Sunshine noise,

I couldn't agree with you more. I really hate all of the retroactive media and governmental action. How about being a little more proactive for once? But, then again, hopefully they are being proactive on some things and that is why we don't hear about them.

Jamesaust 10 years, 5 months ago

Asbestos: "THis is what happens when politicians and politically connected developers put "development growth" (more houses and strip malls and WalMarts) before infrastructure."

Politicians do not pay to build houses, strip malls, or WalMarts. Developers do not pay for bridges. There's no prioritizing of one over the other because they're different things. Lawrence can have 1, or 2, or 20 WalMarts but that has no effect on, say, replacing the Turnpike bridge over the Kansas River - or visa versa.

Jamesaust 10 years, 5 months ago

"WHY is it that preventative safety issues are ignored until something awlful happens,...."

Because voters rarely care.

May we now stop entertaining PLAY, mega-library expansion plans, Sierra Club 'good city' projects, inspections to determine the relationship of people in rental houses, and endless wasteful "studies" by the City, and focus on core government work like repairing not patching roads, updating the sewer system, and replacing, yes, aging bridges?

Overpasses at Iowa and Sixth Street are questionable? GOOD! The whole road network at Iowa and Sixth should be scrapped and redesigned so that it works. So, get busy government!

How ironic that the quasi-private Kansas Turnpike Authority, which does NOT depend on voters distracted by shiny baubles, is behind the (by far) largest local infrastructure work? They just finished up widening the entire road between Lecompton and Topeka and have begun the first steps to widen the road through Lawrence and completely re-do the East and West Lawrence interchanges.

Meanwhile, the governmental entities patch and watch deficiencies because voters can't recognize doable from undoable or important from unimportant, and want to spend money on other things or insist that tax cuts cure all.

average 10 years, 5 months ago

A focus on "growth growth growth" does have an impact Mr Aust.

Take the SLT plan. The plan is to spend $150 million. Maybe it brings in some population growth, so that's $150m divvied over 150,000 people.

If instead Lawrence didn't focus on growth, the SLT wouldn't be so necessary, so a town of 70,000 could instead spend $70 million additional on maintenance.

Sigmund 10 years, 5 months ago

Average, that is one of the most inane things I have read. The SLT wasn't halted because of funding concerns, it is a Indian Burial ground and frog sanctuary! The SLT wasn't proposed to grow Lawrence, it was meant to get KC and Topeka traffic through Lawrence relieving 23rd and 6th streets of all the drive through traffic and reducing wear and tear and congestion of the city's streets.

average 10 years, 5 months ago

I'm not someone who really ever cared about Haskell or the frogs. There were and are hundreds of different ways to actually bypass Lawrence if you simply wanted to get traffic from JoCo to Topeka. The SLT was not designed for such. It was laid close to town to facilitate the growth of west Lawrence as a bedroom community of Kansas City.

somebodynew 10 years, 5 months ago

Jamesaust - probably one of your best posts. The only thing I wonder about is why the KTA can do all this and the city/county can't???? The commissioners should not be distracted by the baubles, UNLESS the management of the infrastructure is not bringing these issues to them.

I follow local politics somewhat, and don't remember ANYONE commenting about how bad some of these things are. Yes, I have heard all about sewer issues and bad streets and roads - but nobody (at least who is in charge) has been bringing projects up and trying to push through those types of things. It is all reactionary instead of procautionary. I think the people who know about these issues need to start being more vocal and bring the attention publically. Then we can see how the voters (bloggers) react.

AND - classclown has to win "Best of the Day" for that one. wish I would have thought of it.

Sigmund 10 years, 5 months ago

If you don't care about Haskell, frogs, or swamps exactly what is your objection to the proposed alignment? The SLT was intended to reduce traffic on 6th (HW40), Iowa (HW59) and 23rd (K-10) by "bypassing" Lawrence city streets for through traffic, especially large tractor trailer traffic. No matter where the SLT is aligned it will bypass traffic but I guess the closer to existing residences the fewer the miles commuters will travel as well. The SLT was never promoted to stimulate "growth", rather as a remedy to the already existing congestion from past growth.

I don't ever remember anyone talking about growing Lawrence as a bedroom community as a reason for the SLT. There was some talk of roads spurring growth in employment, perhaps you are think about the comments of "smart growth" proponent and former planning Kommissioner Dr. David Burress comments, "If someone's gonna build a new factory someplace, one of the first question he asks is 'How am I gonna get my goods to market? How good are those highways?' When he's trying to decide where to build, for an awful lot of businesses, he wants to be near a really good road, an interstate road or interstate quality road. And we've gotta build those roads and keep them up if we're going to be competitive in that."'s_Economic_Impact_files/burressInterview.asp

Christine Pennewell Davis 10 years, 5 months ago

My question is why only inspect once a year? To me that seems dumb I have a list in my head of why they should be checked out, bridges, everyfew months, so if all these reasons come to my mind would they not come to other peoples mind? for instance weather, accidents higher number of cars on road, you kow ku games, issues like these.

fletch 10 years, 5 months ago

The bridges aren't going to collapse today. The bridges aren't going to collapse tomorrow. You drove over them just fine a week ago, so just stop with all the freak outs. What happened in Minnesota (if you were to listen to the actual experts for a second instead of the incessant yammering on CNN and Fox) is most likely one of those situations where 20 or 30 small, seemingly insignificant things manage to multiply into one catastrophic situation. While it's all good fun to second guess after the fact, the truth of the matter is there isn't a human being on the face of the earth smart enough accurately see something like that coming ahead of time.

Jamesaust 10 years, 5 months ago

"Take the SLT plan. The plan is to spend $150 million. Maybe it brings in some population growth, so that's $150m divvied over 150,000 people."

So, to get this straight, because government spends money on infrastructure (the SLT) there's no money left to spend on infrastructure (a random bridge somewhere)?

Are you sure that's the reasoning you want to stick with?

average 10 years, 5 months ago

I'm against spending millions unnecessarily. It's true that there wasn't a funding problem with the SLT originally. But there has been a funding problem with road maintenance and every other line in the state budget.

According to the 2006 KDOT counts, there are only 1500 trucks a day on K-10 east of town. The vast majority of that traffic is commuters (less than 5% commercial traffic, versus 19% commercial traffic on I-70).

I don't believe we have a huge case of drive-through semi traffic. Never did. Any trucker's mapping software tells you the same thing... I-70 to 435 to get to 69 or 71. Much of the semi traffic we do have is local. The problem we have is 8000 new KC commuters in West Lawrence. If we need an SLT for them, so be it. But it is a cost of growth.

Not that trucks wouldn't readily use the SLT if finished. But, if there was a pressing need to relieve truck traffic on the turnpike (and put a whole lot more semis on K-10... thanks) the KTA should be permitted to build a tolled extension to K-10, possibly east of town.

average 10 years, 5 months ago

Jamesaust, That's pretty much the argument I've made. It has flaws. But, yes, in a finite highway budget, spending to build new infrastructure comes out of spending for maintenance of existing bridges and roads. Sometimes growth and expansion is the priority, but sometimes ignoring the existing roads bites you.

Jamesaust 10 years, 5 months ago

somebody: "The only thing I wonder about is why the KTA can do all this and the city/county can't?"

The KTA doesn't need to seek approval to raise taxes (tolls) nor do they live in fear of being pilloried as 'tax raisers' when they're up for re-election (they're no more 'elected' than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is 'elected'). Instead, the KTA makes decisions (largely) on what's necessary to run a quality transportation system.

Its sort of like why Congress hands power off to the Federal Reserve or the Executive has a quasi-independent FBI or U.S. prosecutors or Food and Drug Administration drug approvals -- all are topics too important to be left to excessive political considerations that always focus on easy fixes and the next election and end up with unaccountable demagoguery and incompetence.

It doesn't mean that these unaccountable decisionmakers don't make errors themselves. (If you read this FR Governor Bernanke, please lower interest rates if you don't want to end up compared with Herbert Hoover.) But it does mean that the errors made aren't listening to people with simplistic ideas about how a complex world is organized or ideological ideas that trump practicality and rationality. (There's no room for either ignorance or ideology in building a bridge but there always seems to be room for such when making plenty of other governmental decisions!)

(Besides, politicians can then say "sorry, my hands are tied; I don't have any control over X, Y, or Z, and so you can't hold me accountable." And voters say, "Oh, okay.")

Jamesaust 10 years, 5 months ago

average: "But, yes, in a finite highway budget...."

But, of course, budgets are not necessarily finite, and infrastructure budgets are never to be finite - you spend the amount of money necessary to cover the needs of the people safely.

I'm reminded of a fellow I knew once who was a very serious budgeter - someone who believed firmly in drawing up a strict household budget (including saving money for retirement, investing to buy a rental property, food, vacation, etc.) and stuck to it. That's a good idea, of course, and many spendthrifts would benefit from such an exercise.

Except this budgeter was driving a car in February on snow and ice with bald tires. When I ask him why he didn't replace them, he informed me that such a plan "wasn't in the budget"(!). I informed him that if he ran someone over because he couldn't stop on the ice he'd have a much easier time budgeting his resources from the state-pen, which is exactly where he'd be when convicted of involuntary manslaughter (the crime he was risking).

So, yes, he viewed his budget as "finite." But that doesn't mean that it should have been or really was "finite." He just needed more rational priorities.

Besides, where was this concept of a "finite" budget when the City was entertaining this PLAY(doh!) idea of competing with private enterprise to build recreational facilities in the city? (People being - obviously - incapable of paying for such luxuries out of their own pocket.)

ASBESTOS 10 years, 5 months ago

I agree with James. But you may add in that budget that the legislature usually talks about a $16 million bridge, but then does not appropriate the money for maintenance money as well that may equal or exceed the initial cost of the bridge.

Additional problems are the monies that are given by the feds and then spent by the states and cities in ways other than how they wer intended, SLT is a prime example.

Others are new highways built with someones name on them, rather than fixing odd bolts and such on existing bridges.

Politicians want "issues" and SLT and new highways are ribbon cutters and attention getters, however a few welds, inspections, and some bolts and concrete in a bridge even though a higher priority, are looked upon less by politicians and those (us) that vote for them.

Wilbur_Nether 10 years, 5 months ago

63BC wondered "Didn't the Governor want to divert turnpike tolls away from bridge repair?"

That's not exactly what she proposed. She suggested increasing Turnpike fees and using the difference between what KTA charges now and the increased tolls to fund deferred maintenance in Regents schools. Keep in mind that your Turnpike tolls are exclusively used to fund the maintenance, upkeep, upgrade, etc. of the Turnpike. Those tolls are not used to support any other road--or other programs--in the State.

ASBESTOS 10 years, 5 months ago

"That's not exactly what she proposed. She suggested increasing Turnpike fees and using the difference between what KTA charges now and the increased tolls to fund deferred maintenance in Regents schools."

See there is that word again, .... "maintenance". See how long the State of Kansas has held off of maintaining their University Infrastructure? Shy? Pet Projects and give farmers more breaks and to give developers pocketfuls of money and to give illegal aliens pocketfuls of money and any other whining special interest group.

The business of the Government IS the "Maintenance" of these infrastructures because the private sector will and can not do the maintenance on bridges and University buildings because there is no profit in it. That is why the Government must do it, and it needs to stop spending money on stupid special interest stuff.

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