Wondering about the current state of Minnesota’s bridges? Transportation for America has you covered. They’ve been releasing state-by-state reports on the state of bridge infrastructure in each state. Minnesota was one of their early releases, as Minnesota also offers one of the horror stories about the worst-case scenario for a bad bridge with the I35W bridge.
The report is a mix of standardized information included in every report, along with some specific information about bridge conditions in the state. The Minnesota report reveals many facts, including:
- Out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, Minnesota ranks 34th worst nationally for the state of its bridges.
- Of Minnesota’s 13,068 highway bridges, 1,149 of those bridges are structurally deficient (1 in 11)
- The average age of Minnesota bridges is 35.2 years; bridges are typically built with 50-year life expectancies. Almost 2,900 existing Minnesota bridges are already older than 50 years.
Many structurally deficient bridges are in rural areas and carry lower volumes of cars. Seven of the top 10 most trafficked deficient bridges are in Ramsey County, with 2 additional of these high volume bridges in Hennepin County. The last bridge in the top 10 for volume is in St. Louis County (Duluth). Note that three of the Ramsey County bridges are the MN52 River Crossing, which apparently is statistically considered three spans. (I can kind of see why.)
The report provides solid information about the proportion of funding used for maintenance versus expanding the highway system, and features a really nice color-coded map of Minnesota’s counties and their bridge situations. The information is extremely valuable in light of current discussions about the gas tax, the new Transportation Bill, and budget issues. Minnesota continues to deal with bridge issues, ranging from bridges on I-34 and I-94 to city and county bridges like the Plymouth Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, currently closed to vehicles pending finding the money to repair corroded cables. The Lift Bridge in Stillwater continues to get a lot of press, as Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN6), Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL), and Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) all work in various ways to get a new St. Croix river crossing approved. This report shows that these bridges in the news are just the ones getting coverage, and are by no means the extent of Minnesota’s infrastructure problem.