Worst bridges to get small slice of half-billion in stimulus funds

  • July 30, 2009 - 11:13 PM

Just 27 of Minnesota's 1,160 neediest bridges will get a share of the state's $502 million in road and bridge stimulus money, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Minnesota will spend about $50 million in federal stimulus cash to replace, repair or build 80 bridges. A third of those are deemed "structurally deficient," meaning significant parts are deteriorated or damaged, though the designation doesn't necessarily mean a bridge is unsafe.

Crumbling bridges were cited in the passage of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but because the law was designed to provide quick employment through "shovel ready" projects, most of Minnesota's share is going toward things such as pavement overlays, guardrails and median cables.

The new Interstate 35W bridge was built in less than a year, but state Rep. Bernie Lieder, a retired county bridge engineer, said that $234 million project was "superaccelerated" with round-the-clock work and a $25 million bonus for finishing faster. Taking four or more years to plan and build a bridge is not uncommon, he said.

The state now is in the second year of its own decade-long, $2.5 billion plan to fix deteriorating bridges. Duane Hill, the Minnesosota Department of Transportation engineer who led a statewide bridge review, said even if much of the federal cash doesn't go directly to bridges, it helps free up state funds for that purpose.


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