February 28, 2007--Posted at 5:30 p.m. CST
DUNKLIN COUNTY, MO--The state of Missouri has the seventh most bridges in the United States, but over ten percent of them need an overhaul. Hope is on the way with a new program that will improve over 800 bridges. For over 1000 bridges in Southeast Missouri, there's not much tread left on the tires.
"Sometimes the deck will have cracking or crumbling from the concrete getting old and rotting the pilings on the bridge will rot or lean," said Missouri Department of Transportation engineer Jeff Lambert.
Lambert says the state's "800 Better Bridge Program" will bring up and maintain over 45 bridges in the Bootheel to at least a level six on a scale of nine.
"This safe and sound program picks up those bridges in the three to four category. If you get much lower than that it is time to close the bridge down and we don't want to do that," said Lambert.
Most of the bridges on the list were built 50 to 70 years ago, but were only designed to last around 30 years and while none of them are hazardous to drive over, MODOT feels by fixing the problem now, they are helping themselves down the road.
"Our crews, along with help from the contractors have addressed many of these needs and kept them in a safe operating condition, but you can't do that forever," said Lambert.
The contractor will have the option to repair or replace the bridges. That means some of the one lane bridges will be rebuilt as two lane bridges, however don't expect them all to be rebuilt.
"We understand those bridges are an inconvenience to motorists, but we want this program to address the structural safety of the bridges rather than convenience," said Lambert.
The construction and rehab of those one lane bridges could lead to detours and road closures, but MODOT says ultimately they understand the importance of the bridges.
"We live in an agriculture community and it is very important that those farmers get their grain to market and we need to be able to have our bridges in good condition so they can do so," said Lambert.
MODOT will take bids this summer for the project which they expect to cost between 400 and 600 million dollars and be complete by 2012.
If you are interested in finding out if one of those bridges is in your backyard you can click on the link below.