(WEAU)--A new report shows the Department of Transportation placed 60 Wisconsin bridges in danger categories, meaning they could fail or they're deteriorating.
On that list are the I-94 bridges going over the Red Cedar River in Menomonie. The DOT deemed the bridges both ‘fracture critical’ and ‘structurally deficient’.
And while those phrases sound ominous, DOT Structure Maintenance Engineer Greg Haig says when a bridge is listed that way it doesn't mean the bridge could collapse at any moment.
“Structurally deficient is kind of of a loosely used term it doesn’t mean unsafe,” said Haig.
Haig says the department uses classifications like ‘structurally deficient’ and ‘fracture critical’ as red flags to ensure bridges get the maintenance they need to stay safe.
“A good example is a bridge deck. If there are a lot of potholes on it, let’s say 20% has potholes, that bridge is structurally deficient,” Haig said.
In fact, Haig says many new bridges are fracture critical the day they open.
“It doesn’t mean anything bad. Fracture critical means it’s a steel bridge with two or less members that has the potential of failing,” Haig said.
For example a member in a bridge means a single vital component, like a load bearing girder, if a girder fails in a fracture critical bridge it has the potential to collapse.
Haig says while bridge collapses are rare, they do happen.
That's why he says the DOT inspects all Wisconsin bridges annually and sometimes twice a year depending on how severe the bridge is deteriorating.
Haig says if a bridge is deemed unsafe it is closed or replaced, like the I-94 Bridges over the Red Cedar River in Menomonie.
"The Red Cedar Bridges are being replaced, that is basically was a fracture critical truss system that had some corrosion nothing severe but enough to throw out the flags and decide something needed to be done," said Haig.
He says there are also three bridges in Chippewa County that are deemed both 'fracture critical' and 'structurally deficient' all which are being monitored. He says most times a bridge shows signs of failure before it collapses and that's when the bridge is closed.