May 16, 2002

Missouri Bridge System Rated Second Worst In Nation

Missouri's rivers and streams - more than 50,000 miles worth - provide the state with some of its most beautiful scenery and enticing recreational sites. But those waterways, including more than 1,000 miles of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, coupled with numerous overpasses, also provide the state's transportation network with unique challenges.

A recent report by the Road Information Program showed 26 percent of Missouri's bridges are structurally deficient - second nationally only to Oklahoma.

Keeping up with a large bridge system is difficult, stated MoDOT Director Henry Hungerbeeler. However, the Missouri Department of Transportation has been aggressively working to rehabilitate and replace bridges that are in poor condition.

"We know our bridges need work," Hungerbeeler stated. "More than 10,000 of Missouri's 23,385 bridges are on the state system. Over the last five years, MoDOT has invested more than $1 billion in bridge projects and that effort has only resulted in lowering our percentage of deficient bridges by one percent.

"That only points up the magnitude of the problem, and is part of the reason we have said that it would take an additional $1 billion per year to address Missouri'' total transportation needs."

Hungerbeeler said he was glad to see recent legislative action on transportation funding measures meeting approval.

"We've been working with our legislators to keep them informed on transportation needs. It's gratifying to see both the House and Senate considering additional funding legislation. As the TRIP report shows, that funding is desperately needed."

Missouri ranks seventh nationally in total bridges, yet ranks 46th in revenue per mile to spend on the system. Hungerbeeler said Missouri also ranks first nationally in the number of major river crossings over 1,000 feet in length.

"We're committed to replacing and rehabilitating bridges as one of our top priorities - taking care of what we have," Hungerbeeler said. "But we have many needs and not enough income to fix them."

He did note that deficient did not mean unsafe.

"MoDOT inspects its bridges annually, and if a bridge does not meet safety standards, we close it. Lack of adequate funding could force us to close more bridges in the future," Hungerbeeler said, "if we cannot improve them soon."

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