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Report looks at deficient bridges

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has released an independent transportation group’s report showing that more than 1,000 Minnesota bridges — nearly one in 10 across the state — are considered structurally deficient.

Area county highway engineers checked the numbers against their records — in some cases reducing the number of bridges listed or average number of vehicles traveling across them. Some deficient bridges were replaced in 2010 or are on roads no longer used. The engineers noted they are continuing to work on deficient bridges but limited funding remains an issue. 

Franken said investments in rebuilding those bridges would put thousands of Minnesotans back to work — especially those in the field of construction, which has experienced far higher unemployment that 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 in need of their skills,” Franken said in a news release. “We should get them back to work rebuilding roads and bridges across the state that are in need of repair

“While we’re going to have to make some big cuts in our spending, we shouldn’t cut the things we know will help our 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.”

The report, which includes bridges that most people recognize as culverts as opposed to large suspended structures spanning rivers, lists all counties in the state. The Transportation for America group, a coalition based in Washington, D.C., that supports transportation reform and responsible investment of federal tax dollars for a better transportation system, published the report. To be considered “structurally deficient,” the bridge requires significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement. 

The Transportation for America report on the state of bridges listed: 

• Aitkin County, 100 bridges, 12 as structurally deficient, 112,710 for the bridge average annual daily traffic — or amount of traffic that crossed the bridge each day — with 2,508 average annual daily traffic on deficient bridges. 

• Cass County, 77 bridges, two are structurally deficient, 119,543 bridge average annual daily traffic with 3,840 in average annual daily traffic on deficient bridges. Cass County confirmed the numbers in the report are accurate. 

• Crow Wing County, 69 bridges, three deficient bridges, 155,800 bridge average annual daily traffic, 269 average annual daily traffic on deficient bridges. 

• Mille Lacs County, 108 bridges, five deficient bridges, 293,803 bridge average annual daily traffic, 13,135 average annual daily traffic on deficient bridges. 

• Morrison County, 167 bridges, 11 deficient bridges, 229,682 bridge average annual daily traffic, 2,214 average annual daily traffic on deficient bridges. 

• Todd County, 131 bridges, nine deficient bridges, 100,418 bridge average annual daily traffic, 4,553 average annual daily traffic on deficient bridges. 

• Wadena County, 70 bridges, three deficient bridges, 46,897 bridge average annual daily traffic, 1,125 average annual daily traffic on deficient bridges.

In Crow Wing County, Rob Hall, assistant highway engineer, reported the county inspects 84 bridges, including all bridges that are on the public roadway system, with the exception of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the city of Brainerd structures. All other city, township and county structures are included in the 84, Hall said. 

“Of the 84 we have familiarization with, four are classified as structurally deficient,” Hall said. “Two of the four are on roadways that are closed to traffic. One has been closed to traffic for more than 20 years, and the other for only a year or two. One of the four is scheduled to be removed within the next month and have the roadway removed from the public system. The fourth is the only one that is currently on a public roadway that will be open to traffic and used after 2011.”

Hall said none of the four mentioned bridges are on county roadways. 

“The last three structurally deficient bridges on the county roadway system were all replaced with new structures in 2010,” Hall said. “Crow Wing County has proactively been taking strides to ensure that our own structures are maintained and replaced as needed.”

Hall said the county has also assisted area townships and cities to help them plan and acquire funding to maintain structures in satisfactory conditions. 

“As Sen. Franklin alludes to in his report, there are still great needs throughout the state and country relative to bridge structures that are critical to maintaining a safe and functional transportation system,” Hall said.

Jeff Adolphson, assistant county engineer in Wadena County, said the county has 79 bridges on its inspection inventory.

“Currently, we have four bridges on our county highway and local road system that are structurally deficient and one bridge that is functionally obsolete,” Adolphson said, adding a functionally obsolete bridge is one that does not meet minimum federal clearance requirements as it may be too narrow or have a poor road alignment.

“We are currently making efforts to replace these bridges while we maintain the others, however, funding is always what limits our abilities,” Adolphson said.

Morrison County Engineer Steve Backowski said the numbers on the organization’s list appear to be the 2010 bridges. 

“Since that time we will have removed or replaced four of the 11 structures on the list,” Backowski said. “No new additions have been made to the list.” 

John Welle, Aitkin County engineer, stated there are 110 bridges on the local road system of county, city and township roads in Aitkin County.

“Of these, we now have eight bridges that are classified as structurally deficient,” Welle said. “Average daily traffic on our eight deficient bridges ranges from 40 to 950 with a cumulative total of approximately 2,000 compared to the 2,508 shown in the report.”

The Transportation for America website at allows people to enter an address and see the bridges listed within 10 miles of a specific address. Deficient bridges are listed in red. 

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at or 855-5852.

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.