More Illinois bridges structurally deficient, according to study

By Joe Bennett

June 19, 2013 Updated Sep 15, 2013 at 9:20 PM CDT

ILLINOIS -- More bridges in Illinois are becoming structurally deficient, according to a national study from Transportation For America.

While the report indicates some alarming numbers, parts of Illinois could be free of deteriorating bridges within a few years.

Transportation For America's website allows you to check the number of structurally deficient bridges in your county.

While Illinois seems to be doing well, compared to other states, highway officials say our bridges do need work.

The study shows 8.7 percent of bridges in Illinois are deficient.

Peoria County has a higher number at about 15 percent.

"We have bridges that are closed currently on the county system and on the township system, because we oversee the township system as well,” says Peoria County Engineer Amy Benecke McLaren. “We have two county bridges that are currently closed. We have about four township bridges that are currently closed."

The report, based on Federal Highway Administration inspections, argues that more federal assistance is required to address safety concerns.

Congress eliminated funding for bridges last year while updating the federal transportation program.

"We need that, because it helps pay for these large, expensive bridge replacements, such as [the Pottstown] bridge, which could be about $3 million to replace," says Benecke McLaren.

McLean County Engineer Eric Schmitt explains, " You have federal funding, which used to be called the Highway Bridge Program, and then we have the Township Bridge Program, which also funds township bridge projects, and that's state money."

The McLean County Highway Department has seven timber pile bridges, which are wooden bridges on rural roads, currently considered deficient.

Schmitt says one or two will be replaced each year until all bridges in McLean County pass inspection.

Counties like Peoria, however, may have a harder time maintaining bridges that occasionally get washed out from flood water.

For now, county officials say they will have to prioritize which bridges need attention the most and work as well as they can within the budget, hoping that federal assistance will one day return.