"KDOT and our local partners must do a better job conducting local bridge inspections in accordance with all the criteria set forth in the National Bridge Inspection Program," said KDOT Deputy Secretary for Engineering and State Transportation Engineer, Jerry Younger.
At a news conference Monday morning recommendations were released to improve the timeliness and quality of local bridge inspections throughout Kansas. Younger announced that a Kansas Local Bridge Task Force was created to meet the goals.
The new focus on Kansas bridges comes in the wake of the collapse of the 1-35 bridge in Minneapolis that occurred almost 1 year ago. The task force was composed of 19 members with representatives from KDOT. the Kansas Association of Counties, the Kansas Section of the American Council of Engineering Companies and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Their challenge was to identify and evaluate measures that local governments and KDOT could take to improve the inspection process of bridges under local jurisdiction.
The task force embraced the challenge and came up with five solutions. Of those five solutions one will be implemented and the second remains under consideration to see if it can be feasibly implemented as well.
Option one suggests that KDOT would provide increased oversight and quality assurance. KDOT would establish guidelines for inspections and the local public authority would use those guidelines to hire consultants to perform inspections. The inspections performed would be paid using local funds.
In response to the task force's suggestion KDOT will re-assign three employees to assist with inspections.
Currently, in Kansas there are 9,000 local bridges that are 50 years or older. Furthermore, there are 550 bridges that are older than that. "An examination of data records revealed a large number of overdue local inspections," said Younger. "Just as concerning were the number of errors and missing data on the local inspection reports." There are currently 20,425 bridges under local jurisdiction in Kansas. For that reason option two is currently under consideration.
Option two suggests that locals would have the option of allowing KDOT to contract and administer inspections. Under this option, KDOT takes complete responsibility for all aspects of bridge inspections and local roads. This option would be funded through a combination of local and federal funds.