I will never forget back in 1998 when I moved to Cape Girardeau and crossed the Mississippi River from Illinois to Missouri on the old Cape Girardeau bridge for the first time. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to do it again. The bridge had been up since 1928. 76 years it stood the test of time before it finally came down after the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge went up in 2003.
Before the new bridge existed drivers could see portions of the road deck worn down to the steel grids and actually feel the road shifting as you drove across the bridge. The collapse of a bridge segment in Washington state a couple of weeks ago that dumped people and vehicles into a river brought to mind the decaying state of bridges and other infrastructures in this country. Just to keep the problem local, in Missouri, 3,528 bridges of 24,334 are considered structurally deficient. In Illinois, 2,311 of 26,514 are considered structurally deficient. Kentucky has 1,244 of 14,031 structurally deficient. Here are two sobering facts to remember as you drive. Two hundred million trips are taken daily across America’s deficient bridges. The average age of the nation’s 600 plus thousand bridges is 42 years. These are just the bridges. We will save the infrastructure problems with dams, drinking water, hazardous waste, levees and wastewater for another time. If you believe that manufacturing jobs are important to the economy in this country then it truly matters that our roads and bridges need to be ready to move our goods. Oh, and when you cross your next river or stream on any bridge with your family in tow just how safe are you.Deficient Bridges