FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Chances are, you've recently driven over an Allen County bridge in need of repair or upgrades without ever realizing it.
Allen County Highway officials say nearly 10% of Allen County's bridges were considered structurally deficient at the time of their last inspection.
Every two years, the Federal Housing Administration evaluates each bridge and assigns it a sufficiency rating from zero to 100. If the rating is less than 80, federal funds are available to help with repairs. If the rating is less than 50, federal funds will help with the cost of replacing the bridge.
However, officials say just because a bridge is considered structurally deficient doesn't mean it is unsafe or has a rating of less than 50. In fact, some bridges with very high sufficiency ratings are still considered structurally deficient.
Officials with the Allen County Highway Department say labeling a bridge as structurally deficient simply means work needs to be done on the structure. Improvements could include widening a bridge because of an increase in traffic.
Of the 35 bridges in Allen County deemed structurally deficient, Highway Department officials say there are plans in place or in the works to fix all of them. They say bridge conditions are constantly being monitored, and if a bridge was considered unsafe, it would immediately be closed until the repairs or replacement was complete.
Tom Keen, democratic candidate for District 16 state senate, wants to cut down on the back-log of infrastructure projects by using the state's $2B dollar surplus to offer cities and towns low interest loans.
"It's important for businesses large and small to be able to get their goods to market," says Keen. "They need access to good quality roads and they need to be able to get across bridges to make their deliveries efficient. Without that kind of infrastructure available to them, they are going to go somewhere else. They'll go to Ohio or Illinois."
Keen's opponent, incumbent state senator President Pro Tem David Long says infrastructure is a local responsibility and the surplus should remain a safety net for mandatory state expenditures.
"We ought to stay away from trying to tap into these vital state dollars and look to the locals as we always have to fund these services," says Long. "It takes time, but the fact is we'll get to them and we'll get to them sooner rather than later. I trust the county officials to be able to handle that."
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