Nearly a quarter of Des Moines metro area bridges are deficient

Transportation for America released a new report today examining structurally deficient bridges in U.S. metro areas. Among communities with a population between 500,000 and 1 million, the Des Moines metro ranked fourth-worst with 24.3 percent of area bridges in the structurally deficient category.

UPDATE: Representative Leonard Boswell's comments on this report are at the end of this post.

Transportation for America leads a large coalition of "housing, business, environmental, public health, transportation, equitable development, and other organizations" seeking to "align our national, state, and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development."

Click here for the press release summarizing the new report, "The Fix We're In For: The State of Our Nation's Busiest Bridges." Charts summarizing the main findings are here. You can download the full text here (pdf). The authors used data from the Federal Highway Administration's 2010 National Bridge Inventory (NBI), which the government published in February of this year.

The Des Moines metro area has 358 deficient bridges. The percentage of bridges that are not in good condition (24.3 percent) was the fourth-worst among all communities in the 500,000 to 1 million population group. Approximately 559,735 vehicles cross deficient bridges in the Des Moines metro daily, which works out to an average of six drivers crossing a deficient bridge in the area each second. Ranked by average daily traffic crossing deficient bridges, the Des Moines metro was number 26 in its population category.

Transportation for America recommends several policies to address the problems covered in the new report:

In order to prevent future catastrophes on our nation's roads and bridges, the report recommends that Congress should:

Provide states with increased resources to repair and rebuild. States need federal support to back their efforts to prioritize repair and maintenance.

Ensure that funds sent to states for bridge repair are used only for that purpose, unless a state can show it has addressed its repair needs.

Require that new or rehabilitated be built so that they are safe for everyone who uses them, whether they are in vehicles, on foot or bicycle, or using public transit.

In March of this year, Transportation for America released a separate report ranking the structural integrity of U.S. bridges by state. Iowa ranked third-worst in the country; Bleeding Heartland discussed that report's findings on Iowa in more detail here.

The shabby state of Iowa roads and bridges will likely be a focal point in Iowa House and Senate debates early next year. A transportation advisory commission appointed by Governor Terry Branstad is recommending an increase in the state gasoline tax to help pay for infrastructure projects, especially road repairs.

Federal funding to fix deficient bridges will likely become an issue in the 2012 third district Congressional race pitting Democrat Leonard Boswell against Republican Tom Latham. Boswell strongly supports President Barack Obama's call for more infrastructure spending as part of a jobs bill. Latham opposes the president's jobs bill and any additional federal spending that resembles the 2009 stimulus package.

UPDATE: Statement released by Boswell's office on October 19:

Des Moines, IA - Congressman Leonard Boswell today released the following statement on the latest in a series of reports ranking bridge infrastructure in the Des Moines metro among the most deficient in the country:

"This latest national report further underscores the critical need for passing legislation to address our state's infrastructure problems. We don't need another disastrous wake-up call like we had with the Minneapolis bridge. This should be a bi-partisan issue because we have to repair our infrastructure anyway," said Boswell, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The report released by Transportation for America ranks Des Moines metro bridges fourth-highest in structural deficiency among cities with 500,000 to 1 million in population. In addition, a report released by the group earlier this year ranked Iowa's bridges third-highest in the United States in structural deficiency.

"The President has proposed a plan that would start addressing this issue not just in Iowa, but across the entire country. We would also be creating thousands of jobs as we work to repair our bridges and roadways to keep motorists safe," continued Boswell.

SECOND UPDATE: Representative Bruce Braley's office released this statement regarding Transportation for America's findings on Iowa bridges:

Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after a report by the nonprofit group Transportation for America released today said Iowa has the third worst bridges in the United States in terms of their condition and upkeep:

"For four summers in college, I worked for the Poweshiek County Roads Department fixing roads and bridges.  Iowa's economy moves on its roads.  If they're crumbling, our ability to attract new jobs and new businesses to Iowa will crumble too.

"We can create jobs in the short-term and make a lasting boost to economic growth - not to mention keeping Iowans safe - by investing in new highways and proper maintenance of our bridges and roads.  We spent billions rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan - it's irresponsible not to make the same investment here at home."

The report says that nearly 22 percent of Iowa's bridges statewide are considered structurally "deficient."  The only states ranking below Iowa were Pennsylvania and Oklahoma.

The full report can be found at the following link:

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