MoDOT launches web page for updates on bridge closings

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JEFFERSON CITY - MoDOT added a page to its main website specifically dedicated to unexpected bridge closings around the state. 

The purpose of the page is to share more information with drivers in Missouri to help them detour around bridges that MoDOT has to close, especially if those closures are unplanned or last minute.

"We've had to close seven state bridges so far this year. That's more than normal, and as we close each one, as they get older and older, they're harder to fix and reopen," said State Bridge Engineer Dennis Heckman. "With our declining funding we're having to leave them closed for longer periods of time, so that's affected the traveling public." 

When MoDOT is planning to work on a bridge, those announcements come far in advance. These unplanned closures come from regular MoDOT inspections of bridges, where engineers may find something broken or rusted out.

"Since they're unplanned, we don't know how many more there will be, but we have over 2,000 deficient bridges, so we inspect them frequently, and if they're not safe we'll close them to traffic," Heckman said.

He also said this amount of bridge deterioration is normal.

"Everything deteriorates with age, and the average age of our state bridges is about 45 years, and we have over 1,500 bridges that are over 75 years old, so we have an aging bridge population, and again with our declining funding, we haven't been able to keep up with them," Heckman said. 

The MoDOT website has an eUpdate feature where citizens can set up a quick account with their email address and select their specific county in order to get real-time updates for their area. However, this feature only includes planned construction and closings. 

The added web page includes inspection photos of the exact damage to each bridge to help MoDOT customers better understand the reasoning behind each closure.

"From above most of them don't look too bad, but from underneath, what holds them up is the most important part, and we'll get up on ladders and hit them with hammers and usually something is cracked or broken or crumbling," Heckman said.

MoDOT expects unplanned bridge closures to continue as long as the bridges continue to age and their conditions decline.