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Rock County outlines $5-plus million in bridge replacements

LUVERNE -- Over the course of the next five years, Rock County plans to replace nearly 30 bridges on its county and township road and state aid highway system -- work that will cost an estimated $5.4 million.

Rock County Highway Engineer Mark Sehr said Thursday the county has the more than $2 million it needs to replace 11 bridges this summer. It will continue to seek transportation dollars and bonding money to pay for upcoming projects.

Nearly all of the bridges slated for replacement are timber structures put in place in the 1950s and 1960s, he said, and most have timber pilings deteriorating at a faster pace than engineers like to see.

"We haven't had to close any (bridges), but we've had many that are posted for lower weight limits," Sehr said.

Those postings are intended to keep larger loads off the bridges and advancing the deterioration, but Sehr said they aren't always followed.

"Farmers have to watch which routes they take, and of course, some of them still use (the posted bridges) anyway," he said.

Rock County has 40 to 50 bridges that are posted for weight restrictions at this time. Unlike Nobles County, Rock County has been fortunate that no bridges have had to be closed.

Sehr said Rock County typically tries to replace six to 10 bridges a year -- with 160 bridges replaced in the 15 years since Sehr became the county highway engineer.

Many of the bridges up for replacement in the county's five-year plan have sufficiency ratings of 23 to 54 on a scale of 100.

The lower the sufficiency rating, the worse the bridge's condition. The sufficiency ratings are devised using a combination of factors, from the condition of the bridge deck to the substructure and abutments.

"They're just past their time -- they're worn out," said Sehr of those that were singled out for replacement in the five-year plan.

The plan was presented to Rock County commissioners during their meeting earlier this week.

Sehr said township bridge account dollars will be used to replace some of the bridges, and bonding money has been secured as well. Bridges on the county state aid highway system are funded 50 percent through bonding and 50 percent through state aid dollars.

"A couple of (the bridges) have federal aid money available," Sehr said. "We try to access money wherever we can.

"We're always encouraging our legislators to put more money toward bridge replacements," he added. "It is a priority for all of our townships."

Readers may reach Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330