Thursday, March 27, 2008

IF School Buses and Ambulances cannot use it, is the Bridge Safe ?

Another day, another bridge story.

By now most of us seen the headline that the Highway 23 bridge over the Mississippi River was closed last week.

The Twin Cities may get the media attention, but that doesn’t mean that there are not problems throughout the state.

Brown County, where New Ulm is the county seat, authorized an independent bridge inspection of the CSAH 8 bridge over the Minnesota River. The firm that inspected the bridge found several significant deficiencies that it felt require action or close monitoring. Recommendations included posting the bridge as a 5-ton weight limit, scheduling it for replacement if a bridge is needed and monitoring its condition at six-month intervals.
The county elected to put a 5-ton limitation on the road … which means that school buses and ambulances cannot travel on it. However, farm equipment will still be able to cross the bridge regardless of weight, thanks to a legal exemption.
So Mr. Farmer your kids’ bus will be re-routed but be carefully crossing it because if you need an ambulance, it may be awhile for it to get there.

Previously, CornerHouseComments wrote about the Rock River Bridge which was rated fourth worst bridge in the state! Nobles County engineer Stephen Schnieder said “Right now, there is no bridge money.The last bonding bill was in 2006, and the next one is in 2008 for bridges. If they don’t provide us with any money or not enough, we may end up waiting until 2010 or later to replace these two bridges.”

Adjacent to Brown County is Blue Earth County which is replacing a bridge that many are questioning. VoxVerax wrote about the Dodd Ford Bridge (which spans the Blue Earth River on Highway 147, west of Amboy. Highway 147 is a dead-end road between Highway 169 and Highway 40 — 1.9 miles in length) that Blue Earth County will replace a bridge that carries only about 35 cars a day --- cost to the taxpayers $1.6 million. Residents think it is unwise including Jerry Friesen of Faribault who wrote in an Op-Ed “County officials, it seems, don’t want to listen the concerns of people affected by this. I would hope that the taxpayers of Blue Earth County would question the commissioners spending tax money that could be used for more pressing needs …”

One of the Republicans voting to override the Governor’s veto of the Transportation Funding bill was Dennis Frederickson of New Ulm. Frederickson is a State Senator and he knew the DFL had more than enough votes for the override, but he voted for the needed investment in our infrastructure. That’s the type of leadership the state needs … at all levels (hint Blue Earth County Commissioners.)

As the candidates discuss their issues for the state legislature, solving our bridge and transportation needs should be at the top of their agenda. It will be interesting to hear Republican hopeful Ruthie (Ruth) Hendrycks assessment of CSAH 8 bridge since Brown County is in Minnesota House District 21B. Candidate Hendrycks seems to be a one-issue candidate and unless she thinks that closing bridges will impede the movement of illegal immigrants, she needs to inform voters her views on solving the infrastructure investment challenge.

It’s all about leadership.
Governor Tim Pawlenty is past his deadline to announce a new nominee for Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Minnesota needs a coordinated effort to ensure that bridge safety is beyond question and that a statewide priority of projects is used to ensure that some counties don’t suffer while other counties waste.

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