The Idaho Transportation Board heard a report today on the Dover Bridge, a span on U.S. Highway 2 in North Idaho that the May issue of Popular Mechanics magazine rated as one of the “10 pieces of U.S. infrastructure we must fix now,” a list that also included the Brooklyn Bridge, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and the Sacramento River levies. North Idaho lawmakers long have pushed for replacement of the Dover Bridge, but with a price tag of $25 million, it’s not in the state’s current five-year plan. The national magazine noted that a big chunk of the 71-year-old bridge last year fell onto the railroad tracks below, leaving a gaping hole. However, the state replaced the bridge deck last fall.
“The bridge deck has been replaced, so that will extend the life for a few years,” said ITD Board Chairman Darrell Manning. “It is in better shape now than it was, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be replaced as soon as we can get it replaced.”
ITD spokeswoman Molly McCarty said, “There’s no doubt that the bridge has some elements that are in poor condition and it’s a very old bridge, but it’s definitely a safe bridge.” She and board members noted that the magazine report focused on the bridge’s “sufficiency rating” of just 2 out of 100 points. Since the deck replacement, that’s risen to 3 out of 100. But they said the sufficiency rating – a measure that got lots of attention for bridges nationwide after the collapse of a major freeway bridge in Minnesota – isn’t a necessarily a good gauge of structural safety. That rating also takes into account many other factors, including how far traffic must detour if a bridge is closed. When it comes to structural ratings, the Dover bridge actually fares better than several other Idaho bridges and is open with no weight restrictions. “This is a bridge that’s still in safe driving condition,” McCarty said. Manning said the board will continue to discuss the Dover Bridge at future meetings.