Bridge Concerns in Winnebago County

Posted at: 11/08/2013 6:38 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- We're nearing the end of the harvest season, but the job of hauling and transporting those crops remains.

Now one north Iowa county is telling those driving heavy farm equipment to be careful of where they're driving.

The heavy loads from combines, grain semis, and other farm equipment has some Winnebago County officials worried about the possibility of bridges collapsing.

“We shouldn't be worried about the legal loads, but it's the illegal, overweight loads crossing the bridges that is worrisome,” said Scott Meinders, county engineer for Winnebago County.

Meinders said there are roughly 100 bridges in Winnebago County, many of them still made of wood. And of those wood bridges, 26 have posted weight limits.

“In Winnebago County, ours range from about nine tons to 26 tons,” Meinders said. “And that weight won't pass a real heavy combine or any loaded grain hauling equipment."

Many of the bridges were built between the 1940’s and 1960's, and while the decks and railings are relatively easy to maintain, experts said they see the most rapid decay on the supports at the water line.

And unfortunately those are the areas that can be the most difficult and costly to repair.

County officials said they’ve replaced roughly 40 bridges over the past four years, but for the wood bridges that remain, officials said it's best to just take it easy.

“It’s real easy to ignore them, especially if you've been over it once or twice, you get a little bit daring,” Meinders said. “But timber is a very imprecise type of material so it can fail at any time."

Meinders said a few extra minutes could prevent a major problem.

The detour around most of the posted bridges is only about two miles, so experts said unless you're in a light pick-up or other passenger vehicle, just take the detour.