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More than 1,200 Indiana bridges considered ‘structurally deficient,’ study says

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A recent study found that roughly six percent of Indiana’s bridges are considered structurally deficient. That number is actually an improvement compared to five years ago.

"Bridges are a real focus for our agency from a construction standpoint,” said spokesperson Scott Manning with the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The study shows more than 1,200 bridges in Indiana are considered structurally deficient. That’s down from roughly 1,700 four years ago.

“There are a lot of variables involved," Manning said. "It requires a lot of attention on the part of our inspectors and engineers, and also a significant focus of our investment dollars to keep our bridges in good shape.”

INDOT says the state invests about $400 million in bridge projects each year, from complete reconstruction to routine maintenance.

“Bridges have a lot of upkeep," Manning said. "That preventative maintenance we do is critical to keeping those in good condition.”

That maintenance was the focus of another study done in 2015 by Purdue professor Mark Bowman. His team spent three years studying INDOT’s work on bridges.

“The problem or the challenge is, you only have so much money, and you have to balance which ones are most critical as far as needing to be replaced,” Bowman said.

Bowman warns that the term "structurally deficient" is just a term used to classify bridges in poor condition. It does not mean the bridges are unsafe, or in danger of a collapse.

His report listed 10 maintenance techniques INDOT should be using to prolong the life of its bridges. Bowman said his research found at the time, not all INDOT districts were doing these techniques on a regular basis.

We showed that list to Manning, who said his department routinely implements these practices.

"Yeah, most of these basic maintenance activities are things that we do on a regular basis,” Manning said while going through the list.

While INDOT says only 140 of the 1,200 bridges are theirs to fix, Manning says all of those 140 will see significant repairs in the next few years.

"Between now and then, we’ll do more inspections, we’ll have some regular maintenance activities and some shorter term repair activities that will keep those bridges open and safe for the traveling public until we get to those larger construction projects,” Manning said.

According to the nationwide study, more than 3,000 Indiana bridges are in need of repair, with an estimated total cost of $1.6 billion.

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