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State says Bryan County bridges are OK
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In the wake of tragedy from the collapsed Minnesota bridge, the Georgia DOT deems the state’s bridges to be safe.

However, state and federal records also show that approximately 1,800 Georgia bridges are considered functionally obsolete – in other words – they aren’t designed to meet new standards, the Atlanta Journal Constitution said Friday.

Out of that number, 72 bridges in Georgia have been tagged "not in good condition" by the Federal Highway Administration.

But none of them are located in Bryan County. There are none located in surrounding counties, either. Nearest "not in good condition" bridges include two in Candler County and two in Wayne County.

The state spends roughly $100 million per year on bridge maintenance, but to completely revamp deficient bridges would run $2.5-3 billion statewide, Georgia DOT estimates.

Despite this somewhat staggering price tag, Georgia is in much better condition than most of the country when it comes to bridges. Federal Highway Administration data shows that almost 40 other states have a higher percentage of problem bridges.

"The Department of Transportation has a good bridge inspection program," said Brenda Howard, communinication specialist for regional DOT District Five-Jesup.

"DOT inspects all of them every two years which includes a rating from 10-100 and a 50 rating means that we will begin looking at replacement. In Georgia, there are 9,000 bridges on-system (state routes) and off-system (city and county roads). We have 2,000 bridges over 50 years old and still have a good rating," she said.

Any bridge that scores 50 points or less is considered "structurally deficient," meaning "significant elements of the bridge have been found to be in deteriorated condition, with reduced load-carrying capacity. But they aren’t unnecessarily unsafe," the Federal Highway Administration said.

The point scale system is utilized for "prioritization," so the state can begin thinking about either repairs or a replacement, and how immediate the attention is needed.

In some cases, a low rating could result in lowering the weight limit for vehicles allowed to use the bridge.

But, the DOT said they have no set cutoff for rankings for what point the state would force a bridge to be closed down.

Nearly one-fourth of the nation’s approximately 600,000 major bridges carry more traffic than they were designed to bear, according to federal government data.

In addition to traffic usage, contributing factors for a structurally deficient bridge can include inclement weather and salting of icy bridges, two factors that Georgia rarely has to worry about, Georgia DOT said.

"Out of the 9,000 bridges in Georgia, 1,000 are rated below 50 and of those, 80 percent are off-system. The average age of a Georgia bridge is 36 years old," Howard said.

The Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed in Minnesota was built 40 years ago, and was deemed structurally deficient two years ago.

Repairs were being done at the time of the collapse.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the bridge is only the second to fail for structural reasons in the last 20 years.

Most bridges are safe and those that should be closed will be, the FAA told CNN.

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