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Next decade could create funding challenges for bridge and road repairs

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by Megan Trent

INDIANA (January 22, 2015) - Every two years, leaders with INDOT go before the House Ways and Means Committee to talk about funding, the current state of the agency and the condition of Indiana's roads and bridges.

Will Wingfield with INDOT says when Commissioner Karl Browning went before legislators at the Statehouse Wednesday, he reiterated a familiar message; the state's infrastructure is aging and they'll need more money to keep up with repairs.

INDOT maintains about 5,600 bridges in Indiana. About 6.4% of those bridges are considered to be in poor condition, says Wingfield. He says if current funding levels remain flat, that percentage could double during the next decade. He is adamant, however, that a bridge in poor condition isn't dangerous for drivers.

“If we think there’ s a road or bridge that’s unsafe, we’re going to close that road or bridge to the public and do the work that’s necessary to get it back open to traffic," says Wingfield.

He says bridges are inspected once every other year, and sometimes more frequently. Meanwhile, the department uses special equipment that scans roadways to determine which areas are most in need of repairs.

“Really, we’re talking about those areas of our infrastructure that need more attention, and ideally, you're investing that money before it gets into that category because when a road or a bridge is in bad condition, then it costs more to bring it back up to a better condition.”

Each year, INDOT gets about $273 million from the state that is uses for bridge repairs. Wingfield says INDOT would need at least $331 million annually to keep the number of bridges in poor condition under 8%.

INDOT uses another $394 million in state funding for roads and pavement. He says 9% of roads are in poor condition. That number could climb to 11% by 2025 if funding remains flat, adds Wingfield.

Wingfield says INDOT officials are watching the current budget talks at the Statehouse closely, because Governor Pence introduced another $300 million dollars for roads and bridges under his two year budget proposal. Wingfield says that money needs to go towards interstates.

“Our argument is that we should invest that in rehabilitating and maintaining our interstates, pavement and bridges," he says. "That’s very visible. Certainly traffic moving at high speeds tend to notice any ruts or potholes."

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