Tag Archives: Aging Infrastructure

Canada’s infrastructure in need of $171.8 billion in repairs

Canada’s leaky municipal infrastructure faces an increasingly grim future unless the federal government sinks an estimated $171.8 billion into repairing or replacing aging roads and water systems, a new report says.

With the Conservatives’ infrastructure funding plan set to expire in 2014, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ first-ever national infrastructure report card called for a commitment from Ottawa to support cash-strapped municipalities, many of which are home to decaying, “at-risk” infrastructure.

The report, a sweeping examination of 123 municipalities that was released Tuesday, paints a bleak portrait of Canada’s roads and wastewater systems. More than half of municipal roads received a grade of “fair” to “very poor” for displaying general physical decline, significant signs of corrosion or “widespread signs of advanced deterioration.”

“(The report) affirms that we know that there is infrastructure that is not meeting a certain standard across the country,” FCM president Karen Leibovici said in an interview. “We need to tackle that . . . to ensure that the infrastructure we have throughout this country is able to meet needs.”

Shabby roads have made headlines in recent months after massive concrete blocks shattered on Montreal’s Ville-Marie Expressway and pieces of Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway rained down on bustling Lakeshore Blvd. Last Tuesday, an Ottawa motorist drove into a sinkhole caused by a collapsed culvert pipe on Highway 174.

Leibovici stressed that it remains incumbent upon the federal government to narrow the so-called infrastructure deficit by providing top-down funding beyond 2014.

Since it was hatched in 2007, the Conservatives’ “Building Canada” plan has provided about $2 billion annually in infrastructure funding to municipalities. Ottawa’s gas tax fund funnels $2 billion into cities for public works projects and this year’s budget promised future cash for public works projects.

Still, NDP Transport and Infrastructure critic Olivia Chow called the current situation “simply unacceptable.”

“Bridges dropping concrete and highway sinkholes swallowing cars are not freak accidents but symptomatic of the crumbling infrastructure across Canada,” she said in a statement. “The Harper Conservatives have neglected Canada’s roads, water and transit systems and Canadians are paying the price.”

Government officials are in talks with local and provincial leaders and private sector interests about crafting a funding plan to kick in when the current one expires, said Geneviève Sicard, press secretary for Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel.

The report card, which does not contain recommendations, also highlighted widespread decrepitude in wastewater infrastructure, with roughly 40 per cent of pumping stations and storage tanks experiencing varying degrees of decline.

New federal wastewater regulations will likely improve several hundred water systems across the country, but those come with a hefty $20 billion price tag that municipalities will have to cover over the next two decades.

Guy Félio, a Carleton University civil engineer and lead author on the study, said the report card should send a clear message to the federal government “we’re in a position to control our destiny from an infrastructure perspective and for that we need to manage it properly.”

Municipalities leave federal stimulus money on table

Ninety-nine “shovel-ready” municipal projects that planned to take advantage of $4 billion in federal stimulus money were forced to forgo grants after missing a federal government-mandated completion deadline last year.

In 2009, the Conservatives had offered 3,913 projects money from its Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, intending to steamroll a lagging economy. The deadline for those projects — including more than 500 projects, such as road and bridge revitalizations, in Toronto — was extended to Oct. 31, 2011, from March 31, 2011.

While Ottawa said it would cover “its share of all eligible costs” up to the extended deadline, Infrastructure Canada remains tight-lipped on the amount of money municipalities left on the table.

“Infrastructure Canada cannot provide the total amount of funding that these projects may have to forgo, given that all projects are not yet complete and the final financial reconciliation has not been completed,” a ministry spokesperson Caroline Grondin said.

SOURCE: http://www.londoncommunitynews.com/2012/09/canadas-infrastructure-in-need-of-171-8-billion-in-repairs/

Pennsylvania Public Utility posts new rules for replacing aging pipelines

Noting the Feb. 9 natural gas explosion that killed five Allentown residents, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission last week proposed requiring gas utilities to file plans outlining how much aging underground pipelines leak and when the utilities intend to replace them.

The PUC unanimously agreed without discussion to seek comments on the proposal, which was developed in light of “recent tragic incidents” as well as the growth of Marcellus Shale natural gas wells and changing federal gas safety regulations, a PUC statement said. Comments can be filed with the PUC up to Dec. 2.

“These plans will tentatively be required to include infrastructure replacement time frames and a proposal for the means by which the cost of the infrastructure replacement program should be addressed in rates,” PUC Chairman Robert F. Powelson and Vice Chairman John F. Coleman Jr. said in joint statement.

Under the proposal, utilities would have to file pipeline replacement and performance plans. The plans should include a time frame for replacing aging pipelines and performance standards that include damage prevention, corrosion control and distribution system leaks, it said. Utilities would have to file plans next spring or summer, with final approval by the PUC late next year or early 2013.

Replacing old lines became a higher priority for Allentown on Feb. 9, after a pipeline owned by UGI Utilities installed in 1928 leaked, leading to the fatal blast at 13th and Allen streets. After the explosion, UGI released a plan showing it intended to replace six miles of old cast-iron pipeline in Allentown, more than doubling what it did in 2010. As of earlier this year, Allentown had 79 miles of cast-iron natural gas pipe beneath its streets and about 230 total in the Lehigh Valley.

UGI officials Thursday had not had an opportunity to consider the PUC’s action, said Daniel Adamo, business development director. “UGI will completely review the tentative order and will plan to comment by the deadline,” he said. “We believe it is our responsibility to safely deliver natural gas to our customers,” he added.

The commission action also requires gas utilities to provide distribution integrity management program plans, which are required by the federal government, with the PUC by Nov. 30. In 2009, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued new regulations that required gas distribution companies, such as UGI, to adopt written plans for continuous review of data to identify threats to pipeline systems, evaluating risks, and implementing measures to reduce risks.

As part of its proposed regulations, the PUC also plans to mandate “frost surveys,” which are leak surveys that utilities perform during cold weather months. The regulation would require frost surveys from Nov. 1 to April 30 each year. Previously, the PUC asked, but hadn’t mandated, frost surveys.

The leak surveys are to be conducted weekly or monthly, depending on the location and size of the line, the PUC said. The utilities would be required to report all leaks every other week and provide a schedule for repairing them, it said.

SOURCE: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-pennsylvania-puc-gas-pipeline-safety-20111110,0,1755685.story

NJ Reservoir Drainage May Affect Local Drinking Water

Officials say water may look, smell differently, but is still safe to drink while the Cedar Grove Reservoir is drained.

While the Cedar Grove Reservoir is drained, workers will go in and repair corrosion damage, inspect its conduits and fix leakage.

The process of draining the reservoir, which is located along Ridge Road, is expected to take three to four months. During that time, water customers in towns supplied by the reservoir may notice some discoloration or changes to the taste of the water, but officials say the water is safe to drink.

The City of Newark owns the reservoir and the city’s Department of Water and Sewer Utilities for the City of Newark along with Mayor Cory A. Booker, explained that the discoloration occurs when valves are opened and closed during the drainage process. The Great Notch reservoir, owned by the Passaic Valley Water Commission and located in Woodland Park, will supply additional water to customers, so there is no interruption in the supply or quality of water while the repair work is being done.

“We are working to upgrade and modernize our water system and to provide residents with the highest quality water supply in the nation,” said Booker. “This repair work will require us to drain and inspect the Cedar Grove Reservoir, which may cause temporary discoloration or a change in the water’s taste. But the water provided will be safe to use.”

City officials say there is a leak in the outlet tunnel and corrosion damage to the 60-inch water main. The main also needs a new valve.

The reservoir provides water for Newark, Belleville, Bloomfield, and some areas of East Orange. Every decade or so, the reservoir is drained and cleaned of debris. Its pipes are inspected, and then it is re-filled. The project is expected to finish on April 30 of next year, according to Township Manager Thomas Tucci, who said the project will not create any issues to residents.

The city has not drained the reservoir since 1990 to perform repairs. Water samples are taken daily from the reservoir and tested to make sure the water quality complies with safe water drinking standards. Discoloration does not make the water unsafe, officials say, but could cause discoloration while washing clothes.

“There may be some slight color changes during the switchover,” said Andrew Pappachen, Director of Operations for the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. “However, we will ensure the potability by maintaining sufficient chlorine residual in the water. We will be monitoring the water quality more often.”

SOURCE: http://southward.patch.com/articles/reservoir-drainage-may-affect-local-drinking-water

Lawsuit leaves large gas storage fields in Kansas unregulated

Bill Knox knows to respect natural gas. He’s a former oil- and gas-field worker who helped lay the foundations for a mammoth underground gas storage operation three miles from his home; he lost a friend in a gas explosion in Texas; and he well remembers 10 years ago when gas escaped from underground storage and blew up in Hutchinson, 40 miles northeast of Cunningham, killing an elderly couple.

Knox says it’s unsettling to know that because of a federal court decision last year, neither the state nor federal governments are inspecting the gas field near his home, or others holding thousands of times the amount of gas that caused havoc in Hutchinson.

“Any time you’ve got gas going, you need to have it inspected every now and then,” Knox said. “If we get a leak and it’s not detected or the pipe gets weak and nobody ever inspects it, we could have an explosion like Hutchinson.”

Since the federal district court in Topeka struck down Kansas gas-safety laws last year, 11 underground storage sites with a capacity of more than 270 billion cubic feet of gas have gone uninspected for 18 months, according to state officials.

The state can’t inspect them.

The federal government has chosen not to.

As a result, thousands of Kansans live on and around uninspected gas-storage fields that dwarf the system that caused the Hutchinson disaster.

The gas company that sued Kansas says it’s not a concern, that internal inspections and policies are enough to ensure public safety.

“We’re committed to the safe, reliable and efficient operation of our pipeline systems, related infrastructure, and storage facilities in Kansas and in all areas where we operate,” said a statement from Richard Wheatley of the Colorado Interstate Gas Co.

Earlier this year, members of the state House and Senate voted unanimously to ask the federal government to restore the state’s authority to regulate interstate gas storage.

Two joint resolutions got snagged in Statehouse scheduling, so the House sent its own unanimous resolution to Washington.

So far, it seems to have been ignored.

“I guess when we have the next field blow up, maybe the feds will figure out they did it wrong,” said Rep. Carl Holmes, R-Liberal, chairman of the House Energy and Utilities Committee and vice chairman of a special committee that studied underground storage safety last year.

“Everything was going fine, we had some of the toughest rules in the nation until the feds came in and intervened,” Holmes said.

Both Holmes and Senate Energy Committee chairman Pat Apple, R-Louisburg, said they expect to revive the joint resolutions when the Legislature returns to session in January.

When gas escapes

Kansas is Exhibit A for what can happen when gas escapes from an underground storage facility.

In January 2001, gas leaked from an underground salt cavern at Yaggy and flowed seven miles underground to Hutchinson, where it popped up through abandoned brine wells and exploded.

The first explosion destroyed about half a block of downtown businesses and shattered glass for blocks around, but no one was killed.

A day later, gas found another path to the surface and exploded in a mobile home park in east Hutchinson, killing an elderly couple.

It took more than a month for flares to burn off the estimated 143 million cubic feet of gas that escaped from storage.

The downtown businesses were never rebuilt, the mobile home park was closed and the Yaggy field was shut down, although it owners are still slowly drawing down the gas under the supervision of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Following the accident, the Legislature voted to have two state agencies split responsibility for regulating underground storage of hazardous gases and liquids.

KDHE would regulate man-made underground salt caverns like Yaggy, the only salt storage in the state currently holding natural gas.

The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) would regulate “porosity” fields, where high-pressure gas is pumped into depleted oil fields, gas fields and reservoirs and held until it is piped out to customers.

Following last year’s court order, the KCC continues to regulate storage fields that do business only within the state.

But according to federal records, those eight fields hold only 12 billion cubic feet of gas, a fraction of the 272 billion cubic feet of capacity in the interstate storage fields the state is no longer allowed to regulate.

“We need to ensure that these (interstate) facilities are operated in a safe manner,” said KCC spokesman Jesse Borjon. “They should be regulated to the same standard as the intrastate facilities currently regulated by the KCC.”

Federal response

Officials of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Division, the federal agency responsible for interstate gas transport safety, declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for the agency requested written questions, which went unanswered.

But department records show that DOT considered and rejected federal standards for underground storage after a devastating propane explosion killed two people in Brenham, Texas in 1992 — nine years before Hutchinson’s disaster.
SOURCE & Read more: http://www.kansas.com/2011/10/02/2041721/neighbors-uneasy-as-gas-fields.html#ixzz1ZobB06oE

12 Montreal structures considered critical due to corrosion

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay said on Wednesday that 12 bridges, tunnels and overpasses in the city identified by engineers as being in critical condition.

“We have the reports from our engineers that these structures are safe,” Tremblay told reporters at city hall, where technical details on 35 structures were made public.

“From the moment one of our engineers or technicians informs (us) they are not safe, we will close the structure or limit access to it either by (reducing the number of) lanes or limiting the load.

“Just because it is critical doesn’t mean it isn’t safe.”

The mayor also said his administration is raising the annual average amount needed for repairs to $50 million from $30 million because of the advancing age of the 586 structures in the city of Montreal’s network. The request for more funds will be made in a new three-year infrastructure plan to be unveiled Thursday, Tremblay said.

On Wednesday, the city of Montreal made public inspection reports for 35 infrastructures on its territory. Of the 12 listed in “critical” condition, two are closed to the public, and one has undergone major repairs since the information was collected late last year.

The 12 in “critical” condition are:

  • Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Pie IX Blvd. overpass
  • The former Wellington St. Tunnel under the Lachine Canal
  • Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Metropolitan Blvd. E overpass
  • Rockland Ave./Bates Rd. overpass
  • Beaudry Tunnel, north side of Notre Dame St. E., near the Port of Montreal (private roadway)
  • Jean Talon St. W. overpass (west of Wilderton Ave.)
  • Jolicoeur St. bridge over Montreal Aqueduct
  • CN Rail bridge crossing l’Acadie Blvd., north of de Louvain St.
  • Park Ave. overpass/Highway 40 and service roads
  • Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Sherbrooke St. E. overpass
  • Upper Lachine Rd./St. Jacques St. overpass
  • Snow ramp at St. Michel Quarry (no public access)

The reports detail the sites’ deterioration:

  • The Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Pie IX Blvd. site has support walls that are severely cracked. Exposed reinforcement bars have also been badly corroded.
  • Pillars have a series of cracks in them, with eroded concrete.
  • The Wellington Tunnel, which has been out of service since the roadway was rebuilt as an overpass, suffers severe corrosion on 66 per cent of the structure’s support system.
  • The Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Metropolitan Blvd. site has corroded beams and severe damage to the structure’s decking, with a risk of falling concrete.
  • The Rockland Ave. overpass’s support structure has lost about 10 per cent of its load-bearing capacity. Concrete is eroding and exposing reinforcement bars to rust and corrosion.
  • The Beaudry Tunnel has severe water damage.
  • Jean Talon St. W. overpass has severe corrosion to its support structure.
  • The Jolicoeur St. Bridge has cracks covering 30 per cent of the supporting walls’ surface.
  • The CN Rail bridge crossing l’Acadie Blvd. has cracks covering 100 per cent of its supporting pillars. About 15 per cent of the supporting walls’ surface is severely damaged.
  • Park Ave. overpass/Highway 40 and service roads: Expansion joints have been paved over. About 40 per cent of the joints’ surface is defective.
  • On the Henri Bourassa Blvd. E./Sherbrooke St. E. overpass, about 80 per cent of the concrete on the eastern wall is severely chipped.
  • At the Upper Lachine Rd./St. Jacques St. overpass, 40 per cent of the support walls’ concrete is severely chipped, exposing reinforcement bars to corrosion.
  • At the snow-dumping ramp at the St. Michel Quarry, 90 per cent of the support wall is covered in cracks, chips and ruptures.

No immediate repairs are planned for the Wellington Tunnel and the Beaudry Tunnel, as both sites are off-limits to the public.

An additional site, the St. Jean Baptiste Blvd. overpass at Highway 40/Metropolitan Blvd. E., was missing waterproofing membrane along its expansion joints, causing moisture to seep in. Concrete was also badly damaged along the joints. Repairs have begun at this site.

In Montreal’s disclosure, the city made public, for each of 35 structures, one-or twopage “inspection summary sheets” on which engineers have rated the deterioration of various elements. For each of the 35, photos of trouble spots were also provided.

Richard Bergeron, of the opposition Projet Montréal party, accused the city of holding back more detailed “engineers’ reports” for its structures.

But city spokesperson Philippe Sabourin denied that. He said the documents made public Wednesday are the complete inspection reports. “We don’t have any other reports,” Sabourin said.

By month’s end, the city is to publish on its website more information about the 520 other structures under its control. For those, Montreal will release the same type of “inspection summary sheets” but will not include photos, Sabourin said.

Tremblay said the city will henceforth provide annual updates on the state of every one of its structures via its website.

This week, Quebec Transport Minister Pierre Moreau pledged to make public inspection reports for all 10,000 structures under his control.

He did not provide a timeline.

SOURCE: http://www.montrealgazette.com/structures+considered+critical/5401145/story.html#ixzz1Y1MUaLdE

Florida’s St. Augustine Beach Pier Corroding

According to St. Johns County officials, the stretch of coastline from south Georgia to Fort Lauderdale is the most corrosive in the nation.

Evidence of the corrosion can be seen on the St. Augustine Beach pier, one that’s 25 years old and nearing the end of its lifespan.

Janice Vose, who spent her time under the pier Tuesday, said she had the best seat on the beach.

“It’s shady. There’s a breeze,” Vose said.

But what she didn’t know was she could have been in danger.

A few months ago, during a routine inspection, an engineering firm found the pier has problems, most visibly the corrosion on the pilings holding it up and cracks in the concrete.

Engineers advised the county to take action, so county officials installed netting under the pier to catch any falling debris and also posted warning and danger signs to be extra safe.

“A small chance, a remote chance that some concrete could spall off of the concrete structure portion due to the rebar rusting and cause a problem, so we put up the signs as a precautionary measure,” said Mike Rubin, St. Johns County director of construction.

Most people walk right under the pier without noticing the signs, but Rubin said it would take a big storm to knock down such a sturdy structure.

“If a failure were to come, it would be when the pier would be under maximum stress during a hurricane event or a big storm or big wave action, and there’d be no one on the pier at that time anyway,” Rubin said.

The 650-foot-long pier is supported by pilings up to 36 inches in diameter.

“Those metal pilings that you’re seeing are actually filled with concrete,” Rubin said. “There’s rebar in the top 10 feet of them, and while the concrete doesn’t really provide a lot of lateral structural strength, the real strength is in the pilings themselves.”

The big question is exactly how much the pilings have decayed over time. Until that’s answered, Vose said she’s staying put.

“I’m in paradise. I feel so grateful,” she said.

The county plans to have the engineering firm take a closer look to evaluate the extent of the damage, and then the board will decide what to do. A new pier is a possibility in St. Augustine’s future, but it would probably be about five years before one could be built.

SOURCE: http://www.news4jax.com/news/28884204/detail.html

Regulators investigate “unsafe” NY natural gas line

A key natural gas pipeline which crosses southern New York state is in danger of rupturing and could pose a safety threat, according to a recent report from regulators.

An investigation by the New York State Department of Public Service into a leak on the Millennium Pipeline in January found that uninspected faulty welds were responsible for the accident.

Now the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is conducting its own investigation along a large stretch of the pipe between Corning and Ramapo, concerned that similar problems are likely to occur at other points on the line.

“It appears that the continued operation of the affected pipeline without corrective measures would pose a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property, or the environment,” the PHMSA said in a letter to the pipeline operator, Columbia Gas Transmission, on July 6.

A spokeswoman for Millennium was not immediately available for comment. The company had thirty days to respond to the PHMSA.

PHMSA, which is part of the Department of Transportation, requested that Millennium operate the pipeline at a reduced pressure last month, and the reduction remains in place until further notice, according to the Millennium website.

The Millennium Pipeline is a 182-mile system extending from Independence in Steuben County, New York to Buena Vista in Rockland County, New York. It can deliver up to 525 dekatherms (525 million cubic feet) per day of supply.

Millennium is jointly owned by NiSource Inc (NI.N: Quote) business unit NiSource Gas Transmission & Storage, and affiliates of National Grid (NG.L: Quote) and DTE Energy (DTE.N: Quote). (Reporting by Edward McAllister and Eileen Moustakis; Editing by Alden Bentley)

SOURCE: http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFN1E77410620110805

Memorial Bridge coatings job to cost $12 million

AUGUSTA – Memorial Bridge is due for a pricey paint job, perhaps as early as this fall. Painting the nearly 2,100-foot-long, 48-foot-wide bridge is expected to cost about $12 million.

By comparison, the bridge was built in 1949 at a cost of $1.2 million.

Officials attribute the high cost of repainting to the bridge’s size and the presence of lead paint on it, which will have to be contained so it doesn’t end up in the river or elsewhere in the environment.

“It’s a big bridge, which is one of the reasons for the cost,” said Mark Latti, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. “And there is lead paint on the bridge, and because of that, it has to be done in an enclosed area. So they’ll blast the paint off in a contained area, catch the paint, and then it needs to be disposed of. All those things, and the sheer size of the bridge, add up to that $12 million area.”

He said the old paint probably would have to be contained to some degree even if it was not lead-based, because it still couldn’t be allowed to just fall into the river below.

Memorial Bridge was repainted last in 1992. Latti said bridges, depending on the environment they are in, generally need painting every 15 to 20 years.

He said while Memorial Bridge is safe for motorists and pedestrians, the bridge’s paint has flaked off in some areas and shows corrosion in others.

“It’s time for a paint job,” Latti said. “This is preventative maintenance, designed to extend the life of the bridge.”

Latti said the project is funded and the work will be advertised for contractors in the fall. Depending on the contractor, the work could take place in late fall, over the winter, or not until warmer weather arrives next spring.

Latti said the such projects typically are funded by a combination of 20 percent state and 80 percent federal funds.

Depending on the size of the project’s crew, it could take between six months and a year to complete. Latti said the DOT has allotted up to two years to paint the bridge.

Not taking action ultimately could be even more expensive. Latti said it would cost about $60 million to replace the entire bridge.

He does not anticipate the bridge will need to be closed to be painted. About 26,000 vehicles a day use the bridge.

“We believe the paint contractor is going to be able to do all the work without lane closures,” Latti said.

In 2006, the concrete deck and some other infrastructure of the bridge, was replaced, at a cost of $11 million.

Latti said the paint job couldn’t take place at the same time as that project out of concern that materials from the redecking project could fall and strike painters if they were working below.

Opened in 1949, two-lane Memorial Bridge is the city’s main artery across the Kennebec River. The bridge stands between traffic circles on the east side and west side of the river.

For the first 18 years after it was built, all motorists stopped and paid a dime or a toll ticket at a toll booth for the privilege of crossing the 2,092-foot span high above the Kennebec River.

It was expected to last 50 years when it was built, a milestone passed in 1999.

It underwent a thorough inspection as part of the 2006 deck project, and another special inspection in 2007, because it is one of six deck-truss bridges in Maine of a design similar to one that collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007.

Latti said the bridge’s structure has been rated satisfactory or above in subsequent inspections.

By comparison, the Sagadahoc Bridge between Bath and Woolwich is 2,972 feet, the Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Prospect is 2,120 feet, and the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Bridge between Gardiner and Randolph is 998 feet.

SOURCE: http://www.kjonline.com/news/memorial-bridge-paint-job-to-cost-_12-million_2011-06-30.html

Iowa bridges third-worst in the nation

At first glance, the two-lane bridge over Wapsinonoc Creek seems up-to-date. But a closer inspection reveals rusted bolts, graffiti, and crooked beams. More than 4,000 cars travel across it each day, and it has not been renovated since 1956.

The bridge, located in Muscatine County, is one of 5,000 bridges in Iowa classified as structurally deficient, giving Iowa the third-worst bridge conditions in the nation, according to a recently released report.

Although the report said bridges all over America are in a sad state of repair and getting worse, Iowa’s bridge problem stands out by several measures.

More than 40 percent of Iowa’s spans are more than 50 years old, which is the normal design life span of a bridge.

Nearly 22 percent — more than one in every five bridges — are structurally deficient, and that is almost double the national average. For comparison, the states doing the best job of keeping their bridges safe are Nevada, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Utah, where deficient bridges range from 2.2 percent to 4.5.

The report “The Fix We’re in For: The State of Our Nation’s Bridges,” was released in late March by Transportation for America, a group mainly concerned with maintaining the nation’s current infrastructure, according to spokesman David Goldberg.

The report’s findings put Pennsylvania and Oklahoma as the only states with a higher percentage of structurally deficient bridges than Iowa.

“The nation’s bridges are aging and traffic demands are increasing, even as state and local revenues are shrinking,” the report said. And the problem is likely to keep getting worse, because state-level needs have nearly doubled since 2006.

The report called on the U.S. Congress “to ensure that [federal] funds sent to states for bridge repair are used only for that purpose.”

And it warned states that deferring maintenance of bridges is not only a safety risk but a false savings. “Deferring maintenance of bridges and highways can cost three times as much as preventive repairs,” it said.

On the list of the worst 100 counties, Iowa holds 17 of the spots, more than any other state, with Adams County being the 10th-worst in the country. Almost 47 percent of Adams County’s bridges are structurally deficient. Winnebago, Davis, Lucas, and Plymouth Counties not far behind. The counties with the safest bridges are Clinton and Jackson.

“We try, as money permits, to keep improving them,” said Eldon Rike, the bridge engineer for Adams County.

Out of the 24,722 bridges that motorists use in Iowa, 5,371 of them are considered structurally deficient, according to the study, meaning engineers have rated one of the three bridge components at a 4 or less on a scale from 0 to 9, 9 being the best condition. These numbers then contribute to the overall condition of the bridge, which is on a scale from 0 to 100. This number is called the “sufficiency rating.”

“We’ve known about this for a while,” said Norm McDonald, the director of the Office of Bridges and Structures for the Iowa Department of Transportation. “We use the funding and do the best we can.”

SOURCE: http://www.dailyiowan.com/2011/06/30/Metro/23950.html