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Condition of Missouri bridges expected to worsen

Friday, Abc 17 News talked to officials to see what condition Missouri bridges are in after part of a freeway collapsed in Ohio Thursday night.

A 35-year-old man from Kentucky is dead and a truck driver is hurt after the overpass suddenly fell on I-75 during construction just north of downtown Cincinnati. The exact cause remains unknown.

Friday, MoDOT State Bridge Engineer Dennis Heckman said there are nearly 600 bridges across the state in poor to serious condition.

Out of those 600, more than 80 percent are on the newly proposed “supplementary” state routes, meaning they will not get any major repairs.

Last week, Abc 17 News reported the 2017 MoDOT construction budget will be cut down to less than last year’s budget. MoDOT said it will only be able to keep the “primary” roads and bridges in good condition.

“We’re going to have more bridge closures and they’re going to be longer term,” Heckman said. “Because quite frankly, if we can’t spend any contract dollars on those closed bridges, most of the stuff is beyond what we can repair ourselves. And that will be a big change for us because we like to get them open as quickly as we can, but we just don’t have the money to continue to to that.”

Heckman said there are currently 483 supplementary bridges in poor to serious condition that will not be able to have any major repairs. In 2017, 670 bridges are predicted to be in bad condition. In 2019, 832 bridges. And it gets worse from there, according to MoDOT Director Dave Nichols.

The average age of Missouri bridges is about 45 years, Heckman said.

But some are much older. For example, a bridge on Route M, just north of I-70 is about 90 years old. Heckman said the deterioration is so bad at this point, it is beyond repair. But he said it would cost $3 million to $4 million to repair, something MoDOT cannot afford in the new budget.

“We’re kind of in uncharted territory,” Heckman said. “We’ve never been this bad off, I guess, is one way of putting it. So until we go through, this we really don’t know all the ‘what ifs’ are. We just know that public safety is our number one thing, so we have to keep inspecting all the bridges no matter which road they’re on. That won’t change. But how we react when we find problems is where you’ll find the biggest difference.”

Every bridge is inspected regularly, Heckman said. Most are checked every other year.

Under the new budget, the number of bridges with load or weight limits will also increase. And the bridges that already have load limits may have to decrease the amount allowed, he said.

Heckman said there are currently only three bridges closed in the state. But he expects that number to grow under the new budget.

If a bridge is closed, MoDOT crews assign a detour route. But Heckman said those routes can be 40 to 50 miles out of the way.

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