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5 percent of Wis. bridges 'functionally obsolete'

State engineer puts bridge repairs at top priority

MADISON, Wis. - According to state data, 724 bridges in Wisconsin are classified in the same condition as the bridge that collapsed near Seattle this week.

Washington state officials said the bridge that collapsed outside of Seattle Thursday night was repaired twice in the last year. Federal officials claimed the structure was classified as "functionally obsolete." According to the latest DOT data, 724 Wisconsin bridges fall into that category as well. 

Bureau of Structures Director and state bridge engineer Scot Becker defined "functionally obsolete" as not up to current design standards. He said inspectors look at all of Wisconsin's 14,022 bridges biannually, and hundreds of repair and rehabilitation projects happen every year.

"You don't hear much from us until something like this happens," Becker said. "Those folks are out doing their jobs every day and maintaining a large program of bridges,"

According to DOT statistics, 1,234 bridges across the state are considered "structurally deficient."

"Structurally deficient means there is a component of the bridge that's deteriorated into poor condition," Becker said. "However, it doesn't mean that the bridge is unsafe."

VIDEO: 5 percent of Wis. bridges 'functionally obsolete'

Becker said the bridge that collapsed in Washington was a truss-style bridge, a design state engineers don't use anymore. There are 78 bridges still in the state that are listed under that configuration, most of those either owned by the state or townships.

While funds are increasingly tight, and as projects pile on, Becker said he will always put bridge projects first to ensure safety on the roads.

"We really put our number one priority and direct our funds to the bridges and repairing them," Becker said.

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