I'm somebody who has always understood the necessity of bridges, but never particularly liked driving across them. Bridges with the large metal beams make me particularly nervous. In some ways, it's a random, irrational fear. I blame Final Destination 5.

That said, there might be grounds for some concern when it comes to bridges in the state of Iowa, particularly our eastern neck of the region. A new report from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) said the Hawkeye State is #1 in the country for "structurally deficient bridges."

Photo Credit: KCRG-TV9, YouTube
Photo Credit: KCRG-TV9, YouTube

Highlights from the National Bridge Inventory Data:

ARTBA found thousands upon thousands of deficient bridges. Here are some key takeaways from their survey:

  • The state has identified needed repairs on 14,905 bridges.
  • Over the life of the IIJA, Iowa will receive a total of $467.1 million in bridge formula funds, which will help make needed repairs.
  • Iowa currently has access to $186.8 million of that total, and has committed $29.8 million towards 39 projects as of June 2023.
  • Of the 23,720 bridges in the state, 4,558, or 19.2 percent, are classified as structurally deficient. This means one of the key elements is in poor or worse condition.
  • This is down from 4,575 bridges classified as structurally deficient in 2019.
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Two Eastern Iowa Bridges Cause Concern:

The study called attention to two eastern Iowa bridges in particular. The Centennial Bridge connecting Davenport and Rock Island is the most traveled structurally deficient bridge in the state. According to records from the Illinois Department of Transportation that go all the way back to 2004, the 83-year-old bridge has long-been the most deficient bridge in the state.

The other bridge is the Sergeant John F. Baker, Jr. Bridge (I-280), which also connects Davenport and Rock Island.

What Officials Are Saying:

Photo Credit: KCRG-TV9, YouTube
Photo Credit: KCRG-TV9, YouTube

The report also said that nearly 15,000 bridges across Iowa are in need of some repairs, while in Illinois, significantly less at around 4,100. Scott Neubauer with the Iowa Department of Transportation said this regarding the report:

Well, we’ve been number one in that category for a few years unfortunately [....] The majority of those bridges that are poor condition are on the local highway systems, so the traffic volumes are very low on those structures. Half of the poor bridges in Iowa have less than 35 vehicles a day.

Chief Economist for ARTBA Dr. Alison Black tried to ease the concerns of motorists by saying there's no reason to panic:

I think people should be aware of the conditions they don't have to worry per se. State DOT's are very good, If there's any concern about safety and the traveling public, they will either post a bridge for load, which means they'll restrict the weight, or maybe truck traffic that crosses the bridge or in extreme cases, they may shut down a lane or the entire bridge.

Per WQAD, Iowa is set to receive $461.7 million in bridge formula funds over the life of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021. Meanwhile, Illinois is getting $1.5 billion for bridge formula funds.

See the full results of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association's bridge report on their website.

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