Based on 2007 data in a report commissioned by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and released in 2009, there were 519 bridges in Indiana that needed repair or replacement because of structural issues that didn't allow them to be crossed by regular loads. For example, if a semi -truck carrying 1,000 bushels of grain can't cross it, then the bridge has issues.
Roz Leeck with the Indiana Soybean Alliance says the report was updated based on 2010 data and released this year. There are actually 408 bridges in that category today in Indiana, down more than 100 from three years ago.
On the surface that would appear to be a good trend. And it's likely many of those bridges were repaired or replaced. However, some of these bridges on small rural roads may have simply been closed by county officials, skewing the data and positive nature of the trend.
The Indiana Soybean Alliance decided to focus on bridges to help bring awareness to the task of maintaining the infrastructure that gets farm commodities to market.
The Board of directors, largely made up of farmers, wasn't surprised, either by the original 2009 report, or by the update released this year, Leeck says. Many live in rural areas and know some bridges have problems. They also know that in many rural counties, funding to fix rural roads and bridges is a large issue.
One reason for doing the studies was to make sure that county decision makers could have solid data at their fingertips when called upon to choose priorities about which roads get fixed and which don't. The same information was also made available to regional and state officials. In fact, Megan Kuhn, also with the Indiana Soybean Alliance, says the original study is still on their Website. They soon hope to launch an interactive map of the state based upon the second study, You will be able n the county you want to know more about, and see an actual map of locations of all bridges in the county. The coding system will tell you how the bridges fared on the system used to rate bridges. Look for this interactive feature coming soon.