- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Some bridges in Illinois are not being checked as often as they should be, according to a state auditor’s report released this week.

Many of the bridges that have gone years without inspection were labeled as “structurally deficient” and need to be more closely monitored.

The critical report from the Office of the Auditor General examined inspection records in the last fiscal year for the more than 26,000 working bridges in the state. It found almost 60 bridges that were at least 4 years old and hadn’t received recent or regular inspections. One bridge built in 1998 only had one inspection on the books.

IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said “there are no unsafe or dangerous bridges open to the public in Illinois.” He said the agency follows a rigorous inspection schedule and shares the results on its website. IDOT officials are holding meetings around the state to gather public input.

The state’s bridges received closer scrutiny in 2007 after a Minnesota bridge collapse prompted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to order more inspections. Nearly 10 percent of Illinois’ bridges were found to be structurally deficient. And earlier this year, IDOT officials announced that a bridge over the Mississippi River that connects Missouri with Illinois will be closed until March 2016 for repairs. An annual inspection uncovered steel beams and joints in need of repair.

Tridgell said about 2,200, or a little more than 8 percent, of the bridges in Illinois are labeled as structurally deficient - meaning parts of the bridges need to be monitored more closely through normal inspections.

The auditor’s report released Thursday found that around 70 bridges were overdue for special inspections. Nearly all of those requiring special inspections were under local control. About 15 of those bridges were rated structurally deficient.

Some bridges have been repaired or replaced, according to the report, and this eliminated the need for special inspections. But data the auditors looked at showed those bridges were behind on inspections.

More than 480 bridges also were slated for underwater inspections during last fiscal year. Of those, 12 were found to have past due inspections. Seven had not been checked for at least seven years.

Three of those bridges were determined to have structural problems during the underwater inspections.

Responsibility for many of the bridges slated for underwater inspections rested with a neighboring state, according to the report. Auditors noted in the report that they couldn’t tell if an inspection was delayed or if state transportation officials failed to send an inspection report.

The report also found that 127 bridges weren’t being inspected often enough. IDOT investigators were checking them once every 36 months or two years, instead of annually.

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Online: https://www.auditor.illinois.gov/

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