Bridge tragedy focuses need for priorities

Monday, August 13, 2007

The collapse of a bridge spanning the Mississippi River in Minneapolis last week has served as an overdue wake up call on the safety of our roads and bridges.

The death toll from the collapse will more than likely grow as the collapsed portions of the bridge are removed and trapped vehicles are recovered.

Since this event, everyone has been wondering how safe the bridge they are driving on actually is. Has it been inspected? Is it damaged? How old is it? These questions are in the back of many of our minds as we drive anyway, but the tragedy in Minnesota has brought the topic to the forefront of our thoughts and fears.

Iowa is fifth in the nation for the number of bridges in our state, with 24,825 bridges, according to a Federal Highway Administration 2006 report. It said the state had 6,661 deficient bridges -- including 5,152 structurally deficient and 1,509 functionally obsolete bridges.

In a move to reassure the driving public, an inspection of a bridge that is similar in design to the bridge that collapsed last week was held this weekend. The bridge, on Iowa 926, spans the Des Moines River in Fort Dodge. It was constructed in 1935 and rebuilt in 1977.

This tragedy should refocus our spending priorities and construction should be based on the realities of the road in the 21st century. It has been pointed out that many of the bridges were constructed before the advent of the semi tractor trailer truck, in the days when railroads carried the majority of the nation's goods.

Our sympathies go out to the families who lost loved ones in the bridge collapse last week and hope that the missing are located quickly to give closure to the bereaved.