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The Condition of Illinois Bridges

In addition to poor road conditions leading to car accidents, you may not think much about the condition of Illinois bridges as you are crossing one on your daily commute to work. They are a crucial aspect of transportation and the collapse or closing of a bridge for repairs can cause massive traffic problems. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the world’s largest publisher of civil engineering information, about 73 percent of Illinois roads are reported to be in poor or mediocre shape. Annually, beat-up roads cost Illinois residents around $2.4 billion in vehicle repairs and operating costs. Even a bigger problem still may be the condition of the bridges in the state of Illinois.

Bridges are in disrepair in many parts of the country. The quality of our nation’s bridges was thrust into the spotlight after the collapse of the eight-lane I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis which killed 13 and injured 45. Records show that in 1990 the federal government gave the bridge a rating of structurally deficient due to corrosion in its bearings. Again in 2005 the United States Department of Transportation gave the bridge the same rating along with a note that the structure may need to be replaced. On August 1, 2007, the structure and deck of the bridge collapsed into the river below during rush hour traffic. The condition of Illinois bridges could lead to a similar disaster.

Some of the disrepair in regards to the condition of Illinois bridges could lead to car accidents. But in the worst case scenario, a bridge may collapse, like it did in Minnesota. In the year 2007, approximately 75,000 other bridges in the United States shared the same “structurally deficient” classification as the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis. In fact, of the nearly 27,000 bridges in Illinois, 2,300 are said to be deficient. This seems to be a big problem, but on the bright side, the condition of Illinois bridges is better than 37 other states, which actually have worse bridge rankings.

There are multiple reasons for bridge collapses including: poor maintenance, design defects, manufacturing defects, construction accidents, weather occurrences, etc. Obviously, some of these accidents we are unable to control. However, some of them are controllable. Unfortunately, the best strategies, methods and materials designed to increase longevity and safety come at an extremely high cost. Unfortunately, with the current state of the budget, the condition of Illinois bridges is not high on the list of concerns. These structurally deficient bridges require constant inspections and makeshift repairs because the costs of replacing the crumbling structures all together are too high for the state to afford.

The Illinois Department of Transportation does however boast a website called in which residents can receive safety information about the condition of Illinois bridges throughout the state as well as voice their concerns about the safety of certain bridges. This is the first time the state has been so open about the condition of its bridges. This likely has to do with the fallout after the I-35 collapse.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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