There's good news for Harvey County drivers — Harvey County bridges are, generally, in better shape than the state.
According to a new report, about 8.4 percent of the bridges in Kansas are considered structurally deficient — meaning at least one key portion of the bridge is in poor condition. In Harvey County, the percentage of bridges meeting a similar criteria is 4.28 percent.
In Harvey County, there are currently 12 of those bridges. Harvey County maintains 280 bridges. The county recently had those bridges evaluated. There are 96 with a weight restriction. There are 15 that need to be looked at. One has been replaced, one has been repaired and one is in process of repair.
“We do have some bridges that are pretty old,” said Jim Meier, superintendent of the Harvey County Road and Bridge department. “We have 280 bridges, and 40 of them have some rating, and each has lots of different components to be rated. … A lot of those, 25 percent of them, are water way ratings. That does not reflect any aspect of the bridge of itself. Of those f40, only two are less than 50 years old.”
The statewide total for bridges needing immediate attention, according to the The American Road and Transportation Builders Association report, is 2,115 bridges out of 25,001 bridges reviewed. Data for the report came from The Federal Highway Administration's bridge rehabilitation program for Kansas.
Harvey County has not always been ahead of the curve. When a Wisconsin bridge collapse grabbed national headlines in 2007, it also caught the attention of the Harvey County Road and Bridge Department.
“At the time of the Milwaukee bridge collapse, we were at the same percentage as the nation,” Meier said. “At this point we are better than the state.”
Harvey County selectsbridge projects based on funding — which has changed dramatically. At one time the county could borrow from state to project a five year plan. That is gone. Two bridges a year was a target — with a minimum of one per year. Even with the loss of funding, the county has maintained that number.
Last year two bridges, were done.
“We do what we can with what we have,” Meier said.
According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), a bridge is classified as structurally deficient if the condition rating for the deck, superstructure, substructure or culvert and retaining walls is rated four or below or if the bridge receives an appraisal rating of two or less for structural condition or waterway adequacy. During inspections, the condition of a variety of bridge elements are rated on a scale of 0 (failed condition) to 9 (excellent condition). A rating of 4 is considered "poor" condition and the individual element displays signs of advanced section loss, deterioration, spalling or scour. ARTBA follows the methodology of the FHWA and evaluates bridge status without applying the 10-year rule
“Structurally deficient is a term (we) are trying to get away from. It is a little bit misleading and they don't use it any more. … What they have gone to is a rating system in which any component of a bridge, for example the deck or substructure, rates a four our less, then it needs attention.”
Every two years every bridge in the county is inspected — part of a concerted effort to make sure bridges are maintained well.
“We have a proactive approach to look at everything we have, we prioritize it to make it not so subjective to decide how we replace and repair,” Meier said. “ .. It was about 20 years ago that we decided to start tackling each route at a time. It did not make sense do a one, for example, on Ridge Road and then do a rural one. Why not tackle all of those on Ridge so you have a route through the county that can handle any load?”
Burmac Road is on the list as the next route. First Street and Halstead Road have each received that treatment.