Editorial: Bridges need more funding

Published 9:31 am Friday, May 29, 2015

Structurally deficient is a term anyone would not want to hear crossing a bridge.

But we will have to use that term as we cross more and more bridges every year in Minnesota. The number of structurally deficient bridges make up 6.5 percent of all bridges in Minnesota. For bridges controlled by local units of government, nearly 8 percent are structurally deficient.

In Blue Earth County, the number of structurally deficit bridges went from seven to 12 in about a year’s time. Other regional counties have even more structurally deficient bridges. Faribault County has a whopping 32 deficient bridges out of a total of 213, or nearly 15 percent.

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An Association of Minnesota Counties report shows a total of 830 deficient bridges statewide.

Many rural counties seem to be on the far end of the funding stream. While the state typically supplies bonding for bridge repair and maintenance, the funds have mostly gone to major bridge projects in the metro areas, according to Blue Earth County engineer Al Forsberg.

And as Blue Earth County Board Chairman Vance Stuehrenberg notes, bridges are critical in rural areas because they are key transportation lines for getting farm goods to market. The more farmers have to drive alternative routes because bridges aren’t safe, the more money they will spending on fuel and time. That raises the prices of products for everyone.

The county association and road transportation groups as well as bipartisan business groups like Greater Mankato Growth have generally determined that more road and bridge funding is needed beyond the current revenue stream.

But while revenue is important, funding equity should be just as big a concern. MnDOT has always had a slight bias fixing the heavier-trafficked roads and bridges first. But there must be a realization that roads are just as critical in outstate Minnesota for consumers and commerce.

Very few people are arguing about the evidence. More bridges are becoming structurally deficient, especially in outstate Minnesota. The Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton must come to a solution that makes a dent on reducing the number of deficient bridges.

— Mankato Free Press, May 27

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