Inspection report shows five city bridges need replaced

Fort Madison's Public Works Director Larry Driscoll said five of the city's 12 bridges need to be replaced, according to a 2017 assessment of all the city's bridges. One bridge on Avenue I is set for replacement in the spring and the others are on a waiting list for federal and state funding. The bridge above is located on 27th Street just north of Walgreens and is on the list to be replaced. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC


FORT MADISON – Fort Madison’s public works director Larry Driscoll said Monday the city’s about 20 years behind on city bridge work, including one that is scheduled to be replaced next spring.

“We should have started this 20 years ago, but we’ll get ’em done one at a time,” he said.

The bridges are assessed annually as part of the city public works program and then put on a funding list to get repaired or replaced.

As per the 2017 bridge rating assessment, out of the city’s 12 bridges, five were rated 5 or less which means those bridges should be scheduled to be replaced. The concrete slab bridge being replaced in the spring received a rating of “3” in three different categories.

City Manager David Varley said the bridge on Avenue I, near of the intersection of 27th Street, is on the state’s funding list to be replaced in the spring. According to a report done by Calhoun-Burns and Associates out of West Des Moines, the bridge rates a three on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest rating a bridge can receive. The bridges are rated on three different categories.

“The city has 12 bridges and out of the 12 bridges, five of them are on a list to close and beyond repair,” Varley said Monday. “Avenue I was approved last year and that project will start this spring.”

That bridge, which was built in 1929, also has a life-remained factor, according to the assessment, of one year, however Driscoll said that has to be taken in context.

“That could stay at one year for the next six years,” he said. “Depending on funding levels and where the other bridges in the state are rated, we could be at one year for some time. It’s a rating that’s given on the bridge.”

The other bridges on the list with less than a “5” include the bridge on 3rd Street in what is known as Happy Hollow; 27th Street and Richards Drive; the bridge between 16th and 17th on Avenue F and the bridge on 27th Street two blocks north of Walgreens.

The Avenue F bridge also has a one-year estimated life factor.

Varley said the next bridge on the city’s list to be replaced would be at Richards Drive and 27th Street, which has a “4” rating and was built in 1951.

According to the DOT’s bridge approved funding list, there are 20 bridges ahead of any additional Fort Madison projects. A Montrose bridge spanning a Mississippi River slough is on the approved funding list.

“We keep getting bumped,” Varley said. “The DOT goes down the list until they’re funding is used up and we’re far enough down that we keep getting bumped off the list.”

Varley said the other seven bridges can be repaired and he said the city may try to rehab some of the five that need to be replaced to extend their life until they make the list.

Funding the bridge replacement comes from federal, state, and local sources with 75% coming from federal funding through the Federal Highway Administration, 5% from the state Department of Transportation, and the other 20% from city coffers.

The best bridge on the assessment was the Avenue D bridge which scored an “8” with a 50-year remaining lifespan.

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