By Michael Schaffer - Managing editor
The Appanoose County Engineer's office recently closed the bridge on 610th Street just west of 328th Avenue in the far southeast corner of the county.
Gary Bishop, county engineer, Monday said the 19 ton load-limit bridge should have lasted at least a few more years before it would need to be replaced.
He called the close "unexpected."
"The structural engineers who inspect the bridge have to inspect the bridge every year because it falls in the 'fracture critical' category by being a truss-type bridge," Bishop said. "The inspectors recently found that corner pilings have crushed (failed) and placed the bridge in an unsafe condition."
Bishop said the failed pilings were likely the result of heavy loads crossing the bridge that exceeded the 19 ton rating.
"The bridge inspection process has become much more intensive after the bridge failure in Saint Paul, Minn.," Bishop said. "The purpose of these inspections is to keep the traveling public safe."
Bishop said the county plans to get the bridge replaced and opened much sooner than the original 10 year forecast
"But it is difficult to know how fast it can be replaced because of funding and all the permits and clearances that have to be obtained," Bishop said. "Every effort will be made to get the bridge replaced as soon as possible."
Pending Iowa Department of Transportation approval, the county has some funds they can use to replace the bridge on a Farm to Market road as soon as possible, Bishop said.
Appanoose County has 195 bridges with a clear span of 20 feet or greater, Bishop said.
"These bridges are deteriorating at a rate faster than we have funds to replace them," Bishop said. "It will be extremely difficult in the future to determine which bridge will be eligible for replacement and which will be closed."
Bishop said bridge inspectors work with a complex set of inspection rules dictated by the federal government and non-compliance with these rules may cause loss of county funding or loss of the bridge inspector’s certification.
If anyone has any questions, contact the Appanoose County Engineer's office at (641) 856-6193.