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Report finds decaying bridges span the U.S.; Minn. makes progress on repairs

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An analysis by the Associated Press finds more than 7,000 bridges around the country that could be at risk of failure because of the need for repairs. But fewer than three dozen of those are in Minnesota, where the collapse of the Interstate 35-W bridge six years ago generated a new commitment to bridge repair.

The AP look at Minnesota uses the Mississippi River bridge in Hastings as an example. Work on the new four-lane span will wrap up this winter. Under a previous timeline, work on the bridge would not have started until 2018. But after the 35-W collapse killed 13 people, the state raised the gas tax to fund a 10-year project to whittle down the list of bridges in need of work.

Nationally, the AP found 7,795 bridges that are both "structurally deficient" and "fracture critical." That means their condition is deteriorating and the bridge is at risk of collapse if even one vital component fails.

In Wisconsin, the AP found 60 bridges that fall into both categories, but a state transportation official says 10 have already been repaired.

Similarly in North Dakota the AP found 150 bridges were listed as both structurally deficient and fracture critical, but a research fellow at North Dakota State University says many of those have been repaired or taken out of commission. Alan Dybing tells AP many of the remainder handle low traffic volume of 50 vehicles or fewer per day.

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