The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has reinspected all state-maintained bridges over the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to look for any possible damage due to dramatic weather fluctuations over the frigid winter weather. MoDOT staff is currently conducting its annual bridge inspections, and damage found on bridges in St. Louis and Kansas City areas prompted the additional inspections.
There are 57 major river crossings in Missouri — the most of any state. MoDOT wanted to ensure they all receive a comprehensive inspection within three months, from February to early May.
“Safety is our ultimate concern, and motorists can rest assured that every bridge open on the state system is safe for travel,” said MoDOT Director Henry Hungerbeeler. “After the Paseo Bridge in Kansas City had structural problems recently, I directed our staff to take a new look at all our major river crossings.”
All Missouri bridges are inspected at least every other year — a national standard set by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). However, the department routinely inspects its bridges more often than federally required; many of them are inspected at least once a year.
The department is responsible for the maintenance of approximately 10,000 bridges in Missouri. There are 57 major river crossings in Missouri, but because some of those are closed, under construction or maintained by someone other than MoDOT, the department maintains 36 of those major river bridges.
“Our current inspection program works well — the problems we’ve uncovered on bridges in Kansas City and St. Louis are proof of that,” said Don Hillis, MoDOT director of operations. “However, because we know dramatic weather conditions can cause unusual stress on bridges, we want to inspect for any recent structural damage on all of our major river bridges, just to be safe. We’ll get within an arm’s length of every critical part of every one of those bridges.”
It typically takes a bridge crew one week to do an in-depth inspection on a major river bridge. MoDOT currently has two crews to perform the inspections, but is adding an additional crew to expedite the inspections, which means staff can cover three bridges in a week, weather permitting. MoDOT should be able to complete inspections of its 36 bridges within the three months, being done by early May, barring any unusual circumstances or significant damages found.
“I’m confident that all the bridges are structurally sound, but with the severe temperatures we’ve had lately, we just want to double-check them all,” Hillis said. “We’ll also be working with the states responsible for the other 13 major river bridges open for vehicular traffic, to ensure those are inspected as well.”
The increase of traffic on Missouri’s roads and bridges, the increasing age of Missouri’s bridges (the average age of Missouri’s bridges is 46 years), and corrosion from environmental elements and chemicals used to keep surfaces safe for travel all have an effect on the condition of the bridges. MoDOT conducts approximately 8,500 bridge inspections a year to elevate the condition of these bridges, and then takes the necessary steps to repair them when needed. Underwater bridge inspections are conducted in the warmer spring and summer months, with the rest of the bridge inspections completed during the fall and winter.
For more information, call 573/751-2840 or visit www.modot.org.