Special Report: Broken Bridges Part 3

Transportation Action at State Level

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Right now, 40 percent of Minnesota’s bridges are more then 40 years old.

This is something many people in the state find unacceptable.

“This has been an ongoing problem for a number of years now,” said State Senator David Tomassoni, DFL, Chisholm.

There are now just over 1,000 structurally deficient bridges in Minnesota.

“If bridges are deficient and roads need fixing, we need to get to them,” continued Tomassoni.

“Minnesota ranks about 5th nationwide in terms of how few bridges we have in those categories,” said Kevin Rohling, District Bridge Engineer for MnDOT.

If a bridge does get to a point where it becomes unsafe, the bridge is then closed, or restricted to certain weight limits.

“A bridge that is structurally deficient doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe, it just means that it needs attention,” said Rohling.

Bridges are designed to last 50-75 years, but as times change so do the standards.

Now, lawmakers are calling for action.

“When bridges are falling apart you need to fix them,” said Tomassoni.

Governor Dayton has laid out his plan to fix the aging transportation system.

The $6 billion plan would repair or replace 330 bridges statewide.

Funding would come from a 6.5 percent tax on gasoline and by raising car registration fees by $10.

“The senate plan is similar to that and the house plan is somewhat different, but how we get there is yet to be seen,” said Tomassoni.

Under the current funding arrangement, MnDOT tells Fox 21 the agency spends just under $10 million on projects each year and just under $2 million for daily maintenance.

That’s just for District 1 which includes the state’s northeastern counties.

“We constantly need to re–prioritize our projects to appropriately spend the funding that we’re given,” said Rohling.

The 2007 I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis raised awareness about how extreme this problem is.

“I doubt we would have known that all these bridges need repair had it not been for the highway 35 bridge collapsing,” said Tomassoni.

Bridge engineers say, they’ve come a long way since then.

“We’ve taken the lion’s share of the biggest problems out of our bridges, so now we can focus on that more on that maintenance and maintaining the bridges that we have,” said Rohling.

Now, Minnesotans will just have to wait for the end of the legislative session to see exactly what plans will be put into motion next. 

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