Study: Ill. bridges deteriorating

March 23, 2011 5:27:05 AM PDT
A new report says that one in every 12 bridges in Illinois is deteriorating.

On Tuesday, a private group released a study on bridges nationwide. Transportation for America says 8.5 percent of bridges in Illinois are considered to fall in the official category of "structurally deficient." That doesn't mean they are in danger of collapsing, but it does mean they are in need of repair.

"These bridges are still safe to drive upon. But again, we stress we shouldn't be waiting until we actually have to close bridges before we take action. Some bridges in the state have actually reduced their load limit so that larger vehicles, trucks, are no longer allowed on them," said Peter Skosey, Transportation for America.

The group used a bridge at Western and Melrose to illustrate the problem. They say the 50-year-old overpass should be replaced. The Chicago Department of Transportation is waiting on money for the federal government to do it.

The issue affects everyone who drives.

"From the looks of it, I would be concerned, especially with all the concrete falling off of it. You hear about that all the time. I would be concerned driving on it now," said Russ Long, driver.

Transportation for America says that federal lawmakers have been extending the same amount of money to roads and bridges since 2009. They want the nationwide budget to increase in a bill with the demand for repairs.

"We need to actually create a new bill with funding mechanisms. That might until raising the gas tax, which has not been touched in close to two decades. It might require looking at other revenue sources," said Skosey.

But on Monday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a plan to improve bridge inspections and maintenance.

Federal Highway Administration officials says President Obama's proposed Fiscal Year 2012 budget calls for $70.5 billion to maintain and build roads and bridges.