KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tuesday marks 10 years since the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145 others. It served as a wake-up call to the country’s crumbling infrastructure.
A decade later, highway officials say the list of bridges in need of dire repairs isn’t getting any shorter.
It’s hard to drive anywhere and not see lines of orange construction cones. Commuter Hollie Kosorog says it raises concerns for her about the safety of our roads and bridges.
“How can you not think about it and not worry about it?” said Kosorog.
But the work happening now barely scratches the surface of needed repairs. The Missouri Department of Transportation says there are nearly 900 bridges in Missouri alone considered in poor condition. One study pegs the number even higher, showing 3,200 structurally deficient bridges in the state. About 100 of them get fixed every year, but another 100 go on the bad bridges list.
“Really we are just taking care of the system, doing the best we can, and kind of treading water until something changes hopefully,” said Brian Kidwell, MoDOT Kansas City District Engineer .
Missouri is near the top of the list in the country for the number of road miles the state maintains, but it is near the bottom when it comes to the amount of highway funding available to do repairs.
“The aging infrastructure is just a lot to keep up with,” said Kidwell.
The Buck O’Neil Bridge at 169 Highway & Broadway is one of the next major projects on tap. MoDOT wants to do a $51 million rehab, which would require the road close for two years. But some local leaders want to spend four-times that to build a new bridge. One way or the other, something will have to be done, or the state says it could get to the point the bridge is too bad for travel.
“All of our system will eventually be in that shape. We either replace it eventually or it’ll have to close. It just doesn’t last forever,” Kidwell said.
Drivers are hopeful more money will be funneled to roads like this to avoid shut downs and longer commutes.
“These are the things people touring from other states see and that they remember. That’s part of their Kansas City experience. So let’s keep those in tact and do what we can,” said Kosorog.
There is a big focus on bridge inspections now. The Buck O’Neil Bridge is checked every six months.
While the future may seem grim, the state insists those checks ensure it can catch problems to avoid a major catastrophe.