The elevated bridge complex that carries Interstate 229 in St. Joseph is one of 33 structurally deficient bridges in Buchanan County, according to National Bridge Inventory data from the Federal Highway Administration.

As lawmakers in Washington and Jefferson City grapple over ways to fund an aging infrastructure system, a new report ranks Missouri among the top five states with the most structurally deficient bridges.

Of the 24,487 bridges in Missouri, 3,085 were classified as structurally deficient in 2017, the fourth highest amount of any state in the U.S., according to an annual report on bridges from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). 

A News-Press Now analysis of 2017 data from the National Bridge Inventory shows 33 bridges in Buchanan County were listed as structurally deficient last year, including bridges along Interstate 29 as well as the double-decker bridge complex that carries Interstate 229 to Downtown St. Joseph.

"The 229 structure is getting extremely old," said State Rep. Galen Higdon, R-St. Joseph. "It's crumbling, it's constantly moving with the heavy rigs and the concrete is busting."

Higdon would like to see the entire raised portion of I-229 torn down and brought to ground level, and the Missouri Department of Transportation is set to start a study on the project this spring.

“In the next seven to 10 years, we really need to do something with that bridge,” MoDOT District Bridge Engineer Scott Stephens previously told News-Press Now. “To replace it is going to be very expensive.”

Stephens estimated a complete rehab could cost $50 million.

The Federal Highway Administration considers a structurally deficient bridge as one which has any component in poor or worse condition. The designation does not necessarily identify the severity of the bridge's decay, only the fact that some sort of structural issue is associated with it.

Despite the fifth straight year being ranked fourth in the nation, Missouri transportation authorities have made some improvement over the last year, with a 3.4 percent decline in the number of structurally deficient bridges from 2016. 

Mark Zinn can be reached at mark.zinn@knpn.com. Follow him on Twitter: @KNPNZinn.

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