The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

June 28, 2013

Declining bridges to go under the microscope

OTTUMWA — Upcoming inspections will likely find what city staff already know, that some of Ottumwa's bridges are deteriorating and in need of replacement.

Four of Ottumwa's 18 bridges are up for inspection this year, three of which are ranked as "structurally deficient."

The Iowa Department of Transportation requires that "fracture-critical" bridges be inspected every five years in order to qualify for Highway Bridge Program funding.

"[The HBP] is a grant program that's based on the condition of the bridge," said Public Works Director Larry Seals. "The worse shape of the bridge, the higher it scores in the matrix."

Currently, the city is receiving $1 million from HBP for the Market Street Bridge reconstruction. A couple years ago, the Milner Street Bridge project was partially funded through HBP.

At its meeting Tuesday, the City Council will vote on an agreement to allow Calhoun-Burns and Associates to perform inspections of the Jefferson Street, Market Street, South Ward Street and Wildwood Park bridges.

Only one is fracture-critical, though: the Jefferson Street Bridge. The other three will undergo routine inspections.

"A fracture-critical bridge is one that does not contain redundant supporting elements," according to the IDOT. "This means that if those key supports fail, the bridge would be in danger of collapse. This does not mean the bridge is inherently unsafe, only that there is a lack of redundancy in its design."

Seals said the inspections are a reoccurring standard to ensure fracture-critical bridges don't develop any cracks.

According to a recent evaluation of the nation's bridges by Transportation for America, 21.2 percent of Iowa's bridges — that's more than 5,000 in total — are deficient. The report found that 29 percent of Wapello County's bridges are deficient.

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