Does lack of funding for MoDOT jeopardize your safety? - KMOV.com

Does lack of funding for MoDOT jeopardize your safety?

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By KMOV Web Producer By KMOV Web Producer

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Missouri ranks seventh in the nation for bad bridges, and the Missouri Department of Transportation says our future is bleak.

Just this week we saw the Delmar bridge close and the St. Charles Rock Road overpass lose chunks of concrete, so how do we avoid a deadly bridge collapse like the one in Minneapolis in 2007?  I went to MoDOT for answers.

The Delmar bridge is in such bad shape, MoDOT engineers say it's not safe for one more car to cross.  They warn that the situation is so serious that we could see more examples like this sooner rather than later, and MoDOT is using the bulk of its budget to keep drivers safe.   

Funding for roads and bridges is about to hit a major pothole.  Next year MoDOT's budget is nearly cut in half.

I asked if the lack of funding jeopardizing safety?

"No," MoDOT District Engineer Ed Hassinger says.  "Because we're making the commitment to put that money into those kinds of things."

Those kinds of things are bridges and pavement -- the only things MoDOT says it has money for for several years to come.

"And we're not going to be able to do any of these big projects that people want -- the things that reduce congestion and make the roads safer," Hassinger says.

Bad news for the St. Louis Regional Growth & Chamber Association... and for drivers.

"Very soon we're going to see deficiencies that are really unacceptable," Susan Stauder, vice-president of infrastructure for the RCGA, said.

"When you say unacceptable, does that mean unsafe?" I asked.

"It means unsafe," Stauder says.  "Poor roads cause crashes; it means there will be increased congestion..."

Each bridge is only built to withstand about 40-50 years of daily traffic.  Most of our bridges are reaching the breaking point.  So nearly as fast as road crews can repair or rebuild one, another deficient bridge is added to the list.
   
"I think what we are in danger of is as bridges continue to deteriorate, we really don't have the money we've had in past years to keep up," Hassinger says.  "We're going to do really everything we can just to hang on."

"How do you ensure that our bridges are safe -- right now?" I asked.

"We do an inspection on each bridge every two years, and the older bridges we do more often," Hassinger says.  He says that's why the St. Louis region is not in danger of a "Minneapolis" happening here.

The Blanchette River Bridge into St. Charles gets a safety check every three months since it's such a major artery and in need of repairs.  It's scheduled for a $60 million rehab next year, and that's only for a westbound lanes.

"I can guarantee you that MoDOT will not let a bridge be open if it is not safe to travel on," Hassinger says.  "So if you're driving on a bridge, you're guaranteed that it's safe."

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