- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska and Iowa transportation officials are not planning new bridge inspections in the wake of Delaware’s safety problems with an interstate bridge.

On Thursday, Delaware’s transportation secretary ordered immediate inspections of major bridges in the state to see if they might have any problems similar to an interstate bypass that had to be closed Monday in Wilmington. Officials there suspect that a large mound of dirt dumped next to the bridge over several years shifted the ground underneath the span and caused the bridge’s support columns to tilt. At least part of the pile was on the state’s property, officials said.

In Nebraska, a combination of routine inspections and state laws requiring permits for any work or dumping on state rights of way would likely thwart similar problems, State Bridge Engineer Mark Traynowicz said.

Traynowicz said he was unaware of the Delaware interstate bridge problem until a reporter called Thursday to inquire about whether Nebraska officials were reacting to it.

Nebraska has about 3,500 state-operated bridges and another 12,000 locally-operated bridges, he said.

“Every one of our bridges has to be inspected at least every two years,” he said. “If anything like this were taking place on a bridge right of way here, we’d know about it.”

A contractor wanting to use a state right of way would first have to apply for a permit, Traynowicz said.

“Say someone wanted to use a right of way to put dirt on,” he said. “They’ve have to go to one of our eight districts and file for a permit detailing what they’re going to do and why they want to do it.”

“If one of our guys saw someone doing something like this, we would be out there asking where their permit is,” Traynowicz said.

Scott Neubauer, Iowa’s bridge maintenance and inspection engineer, said Iowa doesn’t plan the kind of review Delaware is requiring, but said the state inspections normally do not document the right of way.

“I’ve never heard of a project here in Iowa where we had an issue with a contractor piling anything near a bridge that would cause a problem,” Neubauer said. “We’d be pretty cognizant of piling debris up against a structure like that, and make sure that was OK before we ever allowed something like that.”

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Associated Press reporter Ryan J. Foley in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.