6 bridges in county listed deficient

Published 1:24 pm Saturday, September 24, 2011

Franken calls for investment in state infrastructure

Nearly one in 10 of Minnesota’s bridges — including six in Freeborn County — have been rated as structurally deficient, according to a new report released Friday by U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Franken said investments in rebuilding those bridges would put thousands of Minnesotans back to work, especially those people in the construction field, who have experienced far higher unemployment than most other professions.

“Minnesota has so many men and women in construction who are on the bench — and have been for a long time — and so many projects are in need of their skills,” said Franken, a Democrat. “We should get them back to work rebuilding roads and bridges across the state that are in need of repair.”

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He noted while the country may need to make some big cuts in its overall spending, it should not cut the things that will help the economy get back on its feet.

“Investing in infrastructure is a great way to grow our economy, put people back to work and take care of much-needed work on our state’s roads and bridges,” Franken said.

The report, compiled by Transportation for America — a coalition working on transportation reform — lists Freeborn County as the 19th best in terms of percentage of bridges that are structurally deficient, meaning that 68 counties have a higher percentage of structurally deficient bridges and 18 counties have a lower percentage.

It states of the 141 bridges in Freeborn County, six are listed as structurally deficient. This equals about 4.3 percent.

Mower County was listed as the second worst county in the entire state in terms of structurally deficient bridges, with 23.5 percent of its bridges listed as structurally deficient.

Waseca County had 10.7 percent of its bridges identified, and Steele County had 5.5 percent listed as structurally deficient. Blue Earth County had 3.1 percent identified.

The report came out after President Barack Obama recently proposed $50 billion in one-time funding for infrastructure and $27 billion for highways across the country.

“This is something Al sees as not only a way to stimulate the economy today but grow economic development later on,” said Franken’s spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff.

Freeborn County Engineer Sue Miller said while she applauds Franken for sending out the report and encouraging investments in rebuilding the state’s bridges, she thinks there needs to be a long-term elevated investment in infrastructure, instead of just short-term, one-time pots of money for fixes.

Fetissoff said Franken will continue to fight for infrastructure needs after the one-time money has been spent.

Freeborn County’s plan of attack

Miller said according to the numbers she goes off of, there are 176 bridges in Freeborn County, of which eight are considered structurally deficit.

Of those eight, five are in the township system, and three are on the county/state aid system, she said. Of the five bridges in the township system, four are timber bridges. Of the three on the county-state aid system, one is a timber bridge.

Because the timber bridges were built in the mid-1950s through early 1970s — and are beginning to show a lot of deterioration — the county is undergoing a thorough inspection of all 24 timber bridges in the county.

“We’re going to really focus on those timber bridges and try to do what we can to make those structures last,” she said.

Proposed for the 2012 budget is funding for the design of 12 of these timber bridges so that when the day comes for those structures to be replaced — or funding becomes available — there will already be plans in place for how to replace them.

Miller said the county is working to be proactive on its bridges, rather than reactive. She doesn’t want to see a bridge have to close because it has become so deficient.

Also, she noted, one of the county’s eight structurally deficient bridges — on Freeborn County Road 10 — will actually be replaced in the next two weeks.

Other plans for another structurally deficient bridge — a timber bridge on County Road 34 — have been submitted to the Minnesota Department of Transportation for final approval. Construction is scheduled for this bridge in early spring.