After the recent disaster in Minnesota some locals are asking themselves just exactly how safe are the bridges in Clayton County. Clayton County Engineer, Raffe Coopman and Director of the Office of Policy and Legislative Services at Iowa DOT, Dan Franklin, addressed the issue for The Outlook.
Coopman explained that there are 254 bridges in the county, 51 of them are posted for load limits and 34 are fracture critical. Fracture critical means that at least one member in it could fracture which would mean the whole bridge could go. “As long as people follow the instructions then they are safe,” Coopman explained.
Bridges in the county are in differing states of deterioration. The county engineers office receives complaints mainly from farmers regarding bridges that they can’t get their equipment across and that they feel are in need of repair. “Calls mostly come from the agricultural industry, farmers, co-ops and fertilizing companies because they have to take long detours,” Coopman said. “The engineer’s office does not have the funds to accommodate everybody’s complaints,” he explained.
Funding for bridge repairs or replacement comes from federal, State and local offices and the average cost for a bridge is $150,000.00. To repair all the bridges in the county it would take millions he explained. “Each year we try to replace some bridges, between one and four,” he said. “We just finished a bridge on the edge of Volga City and we are currently in the design process of two other bridges, one is on the road to Mederville and the other is between Garber and Edgewood. And, we have several more in our five year construction program,” he explained.
Coopman described a bridge in Mederville, in his opinion, as the most unique in the county and possibly even in the Northeast of Iowa. The bridge is exceptionally attractive, a huge concrete arch bridge that has been retained as a walkway and next to it another modern concrete bridge has been built to take traffic. As Coopman explained it is a good example of a before and after. Seeing is truly believing where this bridge is concerned, although there are many repaired fractures it retains its beauty and due its height walking across it feels more exhilarating than sitting atop the big wheel at the Clayton County fairground.
The bridge in Marquette that crossed the Mississippi is also a little daunting for the faint of heart but Franklin assures that it is structurally safe. It is a steel bridge that was built in 1974 and both the deck and the condition of the bridge is good. “It has a 75 percent sufficiency rating. It is currently scheduled for re-painting and Wisconsin has taken the lead in this, it will probably be contracted for a fall painting,” Franklin said. “I’m not sure what traffic they were projecting back then when it was built] but today 3,500 cross it per day, he explained. As far as the projected future of the bridge is concerned Franklin assures that it was built to hold a lot of traffic.