- KDOT to motorists: State's bridges are safe (08-03-07)
- Safety warnings began in 1990 (08-03-07)
- Questions emerge about safety of U.S. bridges (08-03-07)
- Quick checks urged for similar spans (08-03-07)
- Tragedy likely to reinforce bridge fears (08-03-07)
- Deadly bridge collapse plunges cars into river (08-02-07)
- DOT.gov: Federal Highway Administration list of old bridges by state
- IRE.org: National Bridge Inventory
- Click here to see the history of the last major, sudden bridge collapse
- Click here to see more information about the Minneapolis bridge
Kansas has slightly more than 3,000 bridges that are rated as "structurally deficient."
That's not any worse than the national average.
According to a 2006 database kept by the Federal Highway Administration, the state had 3,038 bridges that were given the structurally deficient label. That represented about 12 percent of the state's bridges. Nationally, about 13 percent of the country's nearly 560,000 bridges were rated as structurally deficient.
State leaders said Thursday that most of the structurally deficient bridges were on local roads, not state highways. On the state highway system, there are 541 bridges considered deficient. That's down from about 1,500 before the state embarked on massive highway plans in 1990 and 2000.
"The system is in pretty good shape right now," said Scott Benortham, who is in charge of bridge inspections for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Engineers said the label of structurally deficient doesn't mean that a bridge needs to be immediately replaced. Sometimes, it just means that a bridge needs to be inspected more frequently, or needs to be posted for lower weight limits.
That, however, is not a perfect system. Bridges can be posted for lower weight limits, but that just involves a sign notifying motorists to keep heavy vehicles off the bridge. Whether local governments have the means to enforce the restrictions is another issue.
"It is true that there is not a foolproof system for doing that," said Bob Lyon, manager of bridge design for HNTB Corp.
But the long list of bridges on the structurally deficient list does give a look at the large amount of bridge replacement that will need to be undertaken in coming years. Keith Browning, director of public works for Douglas County, said finding the funding to do so will be the major challenge for governments across the country. The replacement of even relatively small bridges costs nearly $1 million.
"It is a huge concern nationwide," Browning said. "There just doesn't seem to be enough money."