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Serving: IN

Road, Bridge Upkeep Stays On Radar Screen

Road, Bridge Upkeep Stays On Radar Screen
Indiana Soybean Alliance keeps issue at forefront.

Infrastructure is supposedly one of the advantages that U.S. soybean farmers have other their Brazilian counterparts. Leaders of the Indiana Soybean Alliance want to keep it that way. Part of that challenge is making county, state and federal officials ware that there are roads and bridges that need improving, especially in rural areas, to maintain the integrity of the U.S. transportation system.

Typical country bridge- This bridge in the southern part of Franklin County is ok for car and light truck traffic, but it's width limits how much farm equipment can pass through. A sign warns of a narrow bridge ahead.

The Indiana Soybean Alliance is a member of the Soybean Transportation Coalition, notes Meg Kuhn with the Indiana Soybean Alliance. That group has brought the issue of the need to improve locks and dams on rivers for export traffic to the Gulf to the forefront. It has also closely studies railroad traffic, and made people aware of which railroads perform better than others.

Kuhn said the Indiana board wanted to go further and shine the spotlight on roads and bridges, especially bridges. A 2009 report based on 2007 data completed by an outside firm showed that about 68% of Indiana bridges were at or above the rating system number level considered safe and in good shape by road engineers. The rating system is referred to as the sufficiency system. It's a 0 to 100 score, with 100 being the highest score possible.

The soybean board recently commissioned a follow-up study, and results were released recently. Based on 2010 data, there wasn't that much change in the condition of bridges in Indiana, notes Roz Leeck, the person with Indiana Soybean Alliance who handles this project.

The rating for about 20% of the bridges improved, either due to repairs or replacement. About 30% deteriorated further, and half the bridges showed no change between the two studies.

What that means is that out of 18, 551 bridges in Indiana, 12, 461 have a rating of 80 or better.

"We're just trying to raise awareness that this is an issue, and that we need to define the problem and identify it before we can fix it," Leeck says.
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