INDOT's structurally deficient bridges: Just how safe are they for travel?

Posted at 1:50 PM, Mar 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-02 19:28:53-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- There are about 19,245 bridges in Indiana and data from a 2016 report from the Federal Highway Administration shows that nearly eight percent of bridges in the state are deemed as structurally deficient. So, just how safe are our bridges for travel?

“Bridges here, it’s ridiculous,” said Ahmed Chad, a truck driver from Las Vegas, “I have visited a lot of states, and here, I will say their bridges are 50 percent.”

According to the Federal Highway Administration study, of the 944 bridges in Marion County, 7.42 percent are structurally deficient. In less urban counties, that number is much higher. For example, Sullivan and Crawford Counties come in at 25.69 percent and 28.69 percent, respectively.

Despite having been rated as structurally deficient, INDOT bridge engineers stress there is no need to fear driving over them.

“They’re all ratings that just guide us in what bridges need for programming and need the money to get fixed,” said Darryl Wineinger, who is a bridge asset engineer for INDOT’s Greenfield District.

Wineinger said one major factor for bridge ratings is feel.

“When potholes and spools of the concrete become more prevalent, that can lower the rating, and it’s really just what the motoring public feel,” said Wineinger.

He also cited Marion County’s heavy traffic.

“All the bridges in Marion County see a lot of truck traffic, so that the more truck traffic you get, the more it’s going to impact the bridges,” said Wineinger.

When it comes to crumbles and corrosion, Wineinger said a lot of it can be contributed to the salt crews use during snow event preparation, and water.

“Anything that water infiltrates, it’s going to deteriorate a lot faster. So, anything that the water can get to is where we’re going to be concerned,” said Wineinger.

He said most bridges nowadays are made without joints, which allow water to seep through, however, that wasn’t the case in the 1960s and 1970s when most bridges in Marion County were built.

“On the back wall there, do you see the water coming down? The only reason the water’s there is because the joints maybe have some holes in it, and the water is getting down into it,” Wineinger showed.

Wineinger said INDOT is constantly monitoring bridge conditions, there are crews that work day and night in the Greenfield District.

Wineinger said if it the bridges weren’t safe for travel, they wouldn’t be open for use.

For an interactive map on the percentage of structurally deficient bridges per county, click here.