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Few Remaining Fracture Critical Bridges Are Lightly Traveled

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Brown County, Minn. -

Fracture critical bridges are at the forefront of debate over infrastructure spending, with the 35W bridge's collapse still fresh in most people's memory.

But what to do when a bridge is barely traveled.
At the northwestern tip of Brown County, the future of this 250-foot span of County Road 8's single-lane bridge across the Minnesota River is up in the air.

Structural problems have already limited it to a five-ton load, basically just cars and trucks, with those warning signs treated to bullet holes and the celebration of the Class of 2009.

An estimated 80 vehicles use the bridge each day. And that's just not enough to justify a full replacement.
Brown County Engineer Wayne Stevens says, "We'd have to raise it up, which would make it longer and cost a lot of money. In the $2-3 million range. For that amount of traffic we're just not sure it's worth that. The state has said that for federal and bridge bonding money, they probably wouldn't approve it and that for us to use state aid funds we'd have to use our whole year's allocation on this one spot."

Fire trucks and ambulances already can't use the bridge, which was first constructed in 1918, when few people had vehicles, and the five mile trip to the next crossing really did cost you a big chunk of your day.

But now it's a relic, one of the few lightly traveled bridges that has yet to be torn down.

Stevens says, "It's considered structurally deficient, but that doesn't mean it's going to fall down. The state does a fracture critical inspection every two years. An underwater inspection every five years. We do our own every year to decided if it's safe and right now it's safe for a five ton load."