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Report: Minn. bridges continue to deteriorate

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More than 9 percent of Minnesota bridges are structurally deficient, according to an analysis of state and federal data by Transportation for America, a think tank that focuses on the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure.

The report shows nearly 2,000 of the state's more than 13,000 bridges are in trouble, up 3.5 percent from 2011. Minnesota's deficient bridges are an average of 67 years old.

The Star Tribune says the number rose despite the state spending more than half a billion dollars on a special program to repair and replace bridges, including the Lafayette and Hastings bridges, through 2018.

Minnesotans witnessed the reality of defective bridges when the I-35W bridge collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145.

Just last month, a span of the Interstate 5 bridge crossing the Skagit River in Washington collapsed on May 23 due to a truck carrying an oversized load.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation says the state will need to find new money to repair and replace bridges when the the sales tax increase that paid for the bridge program expires.

Nationwide, at total of 66,405 bridges are considered structurally deficient, which doesn't necessarily mean a bridge is about to collapse, according to the Washington Post. However, it does mean that a bridge has weakened to the point where it can no longer handle heavy loads--forcing trucks that deliver goods to detour, making routes longer and more expensive, a cost that eventually trickles down to the consumer.

The Washington Post says Congress also faces a financial dilemma: "Where will the $76 billion come from that the Federal Highway Administration says is needed to repair deficient bridges that carry 260 million vehicles each day?"

It's yet to be determined.

“This is what happens when we don’t have a long-term policy on transportation," U.S. Rep. Tim Walz told the Star Tribune.

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