Many area bridges rated "structurally deficient" - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Many area bridges rated "structurally deficient"

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Chippewa Valley (WQOW) - There are more than 14,000 bridges in Wisconsin and making sure every one is as safe is no easy job.

More than 1,000 bridges in the state are considered "structurally deficient," including 16 here in Eau Claire County. 

"Structurally deficient," sounds like a dangerous duo of words lurking beneath a bridge ready to bring it down, but the DOT says it's merely a rating used for monitoring.

"It does not necessarily mean that it's going to fall down tomorrow or anything like that.  That's basically a flag showing there's some deterioration in the structure and something needs to be looked at or done with that structure," says DOT bridge maintenance engineer Greg Haig.

From a pothole on the road deck, to a crack in the concrete supporting the bridge span, these faults are part of a bridge's overall safety rating.

"Very, very safe bridges, but sometimes that title makes people feel a little uncomfortable," says Haig.

Actually, it should instill more comfort because these bridges receive extra attention from inspectors.

"Once a bridge becomes structurally deficient, there's an individual looking that over on an annual basis instead of our standard biannual basis," says Haig.

An example, the Water Street Bridge, which falls into the deficient category by inspectors because the underlying structure is corroded and starting to deteriorate, one part of the overall examination process.

"We have to be able to basically touch it and feel it and go through and look at every member and every gusset plate, every plate that's holding everything together, every bolt," says Haig.

In addition to that, the bridge is also examined for something called "fracture critical."

"It's nothing that's bad, it's designed into the structure, but it's just a classification that we use on some of our trusses and stuff," says Haig.

The concern arises when the two safety classifications simultaneously receive poor ratings, which is often when bridges are scheduled for full reconstruction.

"Once you get below 50 you actually qualify for federal funding.  Depending on where the bridge is located depends on the percentage of federal funding," says Haig.

Making sure states have the resources to keep roads spanning strongly for traffic.

The Water Street Bridge is scheduled to be replaced, starting in 2015.

A bridge in Western Wisconsin that meets both of those failing criteria is the Rush River Bridge on Great River Road near Ellsworth.

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