Feds’ ‘fix’ for bridges comes with no funding

Published 9:23 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bridges, bridges, bridges. That’s all folks seem to be talking about these days, and for good reason.

Some Lincoln County bridges deemed unsafe have already been closed, and many more are likely on the chopping block. 

Not only is Lincoln County having to close bridges due to safety concerns, it also having to pay for the costly inspections out of its state aid funds. And bridge inspections are not cheap.

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According to District 3 Supervisor Nolan Williamson, they run anywhere from $10,000-$15,000.

In the past, the county’s engineer inspected each bridge and recommended repairs, postings or closures. It was no doubt much cheaper than the federally mandated inspections.

The federally mandated inspections do not appear to come with federal funding. That puts counties in a difficult situation. Already, infrastructure needs at the county level outpace resources. Adding in the costly inspections makes the problem worse.

“So in other words, they’re doing a program that’s cutting money out coming to the county that’s supposed to be fixing the bridges and the roads,” District 4 Supervisor Eddie Brown said.

That’s the gist of it. The federal government is taking money set aside for road and bridge work and forcing counties to use it for bridge inspections. And while that likely seemed like a perfectly reasonable approach to someone at the federal level, it makes little sense to those at the county level who are ultimately responsible for Lincoln County’s roads and bridges.

Bridge safety should be a priority of the Board of Supervisors, and it appears that it is, but the board only has so much money to work with. If the federal government wants to get involved with inspecting county bridges, it should help pay for those inspections.