Apr 5, 2024 - News

Iowa's bridges continue to rank second-worse in U.S.

A bridge on keosaqua over the water with a sidewalk

Keosauqua Way over the Des Moines River. Photo: Courtesy of Iowa Department of Transportation

Iowa ranks near the bottom of the country for bridges in "poor" condition — though many of those are rarely utilized, rural structures.

Why it matters: While the bridge collapse in Baltimore was due to an unlikely accident, it put a renewed focus on the vulnerability of bridges across the U.S.

State of play: 19% of Iowa's 23,682 bridges are in "poor" condition, according to the Federal Highway Administration's 2023 analysis. They're ranked second worst in the country.

  • A poor ranking indicates repair or replacement is needed soon, but it doesn't mean the bridge is unsafe yet, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation.
  • 42% of Iowa's bridges are in fair condition, while 39% are "good."

Reality check: 50% of Iowa's poor condition bridges that are part of the state's highway system carry fewer than 35 vehicles per day, per the DOT.

  • Almost 74% carry fewer than 100 vehicles per day.

Zoom in: Polk County's most used "structurally deficient" bridges were on Second Avenue over Birdland Drive and the Des Moines River, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

What they're saying: Funding has been prioritized towards repairing highly used roads, Iowa DOT spokesperson Andrea Henry previously told Axios.

The big picture: The U.S. Department of Transportation considers 40,000 bridges — 6.8% of the more than 600,000 it tracks — to be in "poor" condition.

What to watch: The bipartisan infrastructure law sets aside $40 billion to further repair and rebuild the nation's bridges but that investment will take years to go from ink to concrete.


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