Fifty bridges were added to the list of bridges in critical condition across Missouri this year.
State engineer Dennis Heckman believes this trend won’t go away.
“When we completed the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program in 2012, we stemmed the tide for a while,” he said. “But we knew that the curve would start going up again. Safe & Sound made a dent, however it did not repair or replace all of the state’s bad bridges.”
Heckman believes that in order to stop this trend, there should be about 100 bridges being replaced each year state wide. Right now that number is at around 30.
MoDot Central Missouri area engineer Mike Schupp sees the issue as a lack of funds given to his department, especially considering the amount of work that’s needed in the state.
“We have the 6th largest number of bridges of any state in the nation. We also have the 7th largest highway system with over 34,000 miles of road. We have a huge system, but we are funded around the 46th state as far as the gas tax that funds our roadways. So it all boils down to money. We have the lowest gas tax of any state that surrounds us and that’s what primarily funds our transportation system.”
Missouri has 10,376 bridges on state highways, including 209 that are more than 1,000-feet long. Though The Safe & Sound program replaced or repaired more than 800 bridges over four years, 50 to 100 fall into the “critical condition” category each year. A bridge that is in critical condition is still safe for drivers but requires additional inspection than a non-critical condition bridge.