More than 8 percent of Illinois bridges structurally deficient

June 19, 2013 (CHICAGO)

That finding is according to a new survey done by an organization called Transportation for America.

The Ogden Avenue Bridge over the Eisenhower is "structurally deficient" -- at least one of its deck, supporting structure, or ground and substructure needs repair now. That bridge is not the only one.

"If you were just to look at the 100 largest metropolitan areas in America, there are more structurally deficient bridges than there are McDonald's restaurants in the entire country," said James Corless, the director of Transportation for America. 8.7 percent of Illinois's 26,514 bridges are structurally deficient.

Transportation for America is a coalition of 500 groups dedicated to their safety and reliability. After the collapse last month of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington State, only Wednesday was a replacement span finally installed. The coalition says America is dangerously close to future tragedies.

There are 66,405 structurally deficient bridges in America, including the Van Buren Bridge over the Chicago River. It feels real strong, but according to engineers, it needs work, and the problem is that work has slowed down on fixing America's bridges.

"Safety is the primary. If they gotta shut a street down to work on another one to make it easy and safe, that's the most important priority," said John Toel.

At UIC, engineers are installing fiber optic sensors on a scale model of a half mile long bridge in China. Stresses in cables and cracks in the deck can be tracked remotely to offer sophisticated warnings about a bridge's health. With America's bridges averaging 43 years of age and designed only for 50, there's a need for such technology.

"If you look at 1930s, the Depression era, the only way that we could have dug ourselves out of this recession was by public works," said UIC civil engineering professor Farhad Ansari. "Right now, our country needs a lot of public works.

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