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More bridge inspections today in Missouri

The Washington Bridge, over the Missouri River


St. Louis, Mo – There will be more bridge inspections in Missouri today (Monday).

MO-DOT found 11 bridges with similar designs as the bridge in Minnesota that collapsed last week. Initial visual inspections were done last week.

Today, follow-up inspections begin on the Washington Bridge, which takes Route 47 over the Missouri River, between Franklin and Warren counties. The remaining bridges will get follow-up inspections this week, including the Boone bridge and the I-44 Outer Road bridge near Times Beach.

The 11 truss bridges came under immediate scrutiny last week after the collapse. MO-DOT spokesman Jeff Briggs said more than 1,600 of the 10,240 bridges in the state's highway system have been deemed "structurally deficient." That figure does not include thousands of bridges under the watch of cities and counties.

University of Missouri-Columbia civil engineer Glenn Washer said Wednesday's catastrophe may spur states to revise how they fund bridge inspection and repair.

"There are almost 600,000 bridges in this country, with an average age of 42 years," Washer said. "There is a massive effort by state departments of transportation to inspect, monitor and maintain bridges, but implementing some of the new technology and getting the work done is a significant challenge."

Federal data do more to suggest the problem in Missouri; the Federal Highway Administration lists 24,024 bridges in Missouri. Of them, nearly 20%, or 4,595, were structurally deficient, meaning they are deteriorating, according to a 2006 report.

Only three states have more bridges in poor condition Oklahoma (6,299), Pennsylvania (5,582) and Iowa (5,152).

An additional 3,141, or 13.1%, are functionally obsolete, meaning they're not constructed to modern standards for loading and traffic volume.

The report says 12.4% of the nation's bridges are structurally deficient and 13.4% are functionally obsolete.

"All the states face this problem. It's not particular to Missouri," added Washer. "There's a huge national need for additional funding to bring bridges to satisfactory condition. There's only so much funding available."

One possible solution is bringing the state's 800 worst bridges back to satisfactory condition through replacement and repair by an outside contractor, who would maintain them for 25 years, Washer said. MO-DOT is currently bidding out that work. "The state will decide if it can afford to execute it," he said.

The initiative stalled in the last legislative session over a technicality relating to bonding requirements. A spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Blunt said he has been considering a possible legislative fix in a special session, but no decision has been made.

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley on Thursday ordered a nearly 90-year-old span closed as a safety precaution. The Old Gravois Road Bridge in Fenton and Sunset Hills, which gets about 9,600 car crossings a day, was already slated to close later this summer. (St. Louis County owns most of the bridge, but the cities also maintain part of the span over the Meramec River)

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay ordered inspections of several bridges, including the historic Eads Bridge, which opened in 1874.

"We are beginning a very close-up examination of the bridges today," MoDOT spokesman Jeff Briggs said. "We're looking for possible problems and we will fix them.

Of the 10,240 bridges in Missouri's state highway system, one has been identified as a deck arch truss bridge, the type that collapsed in Minnesota, Briggs said.

The Hurricane Deck Bridge carries traffic on Route 5 that spans the Osage Arm at Lake of the Ozarks, and was built in the 1930s.

Missouri has 10 more that are deck truss bridges with no arch at the bottom, Briggs said.

Most bridges are built to serve 25 to 40 years.


The next phase of construction began this morning on the new I-170 bridge being built over Olive Boulevard. The ramp from Olive to northbound 170 was closed and will stay closed for a month.

Drivers on Olive who want to go north on 170 will have to go south on 170 to Delmar, and turn around.


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