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WKYT Investigates | The safety of Kentucky’s bridges

Seven percent of Kentucky bridges are classified as in ‘poor’ condition, federal data shows.
Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 5:23 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Brent Spence Bridge gets a lot of attention for its issues over the years because of all the traffic that crosses it daily, but it is not the only Kentucky bridge with longstanding structural problems.

More than seven percent of bridges across the commonwealth are estimated in ‘poor’ condition. That may not sound like a lot, but consider that in a state with more than 14,000 bridges, more than a thousand bridges are deemed by engineers to be ‘structurally deficient.’

Experts say the condition of Kentucky bridges overall has gotten better in the past few years, with more bridges repaired or replaced. But there is still work to do. The American Road and Transportation Builders Association says the state has identified needed repairs on more than 3,000 bridges with a total price tag of $2.5 billion.

The Federal Highway Administration classifies bridges as in either good, fair or poor condition, based on a rating of structural elements like the deck, superstructure, substructure or culverts.

Federal data shows the following Kentucky counties have the highest percentages of bridges classified as ‘poor’:

  1. Leslie County: 31.53%
  2. Clay County: 22.42%
  3. Harlan County: 19.29%
  4. McCreary County: 18.42%
  5. Oldham County: 17.91%
  6. Franklin County: 17.5%
  7. Meade County: 16.67%
  8. Letcher County: 16.36%
  9. Bracken County: 14.89%
  10. Henry County: 13.98%

Menifee and Robertson counties have no bridges rated as ‘poor.’

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Kentucky’s bridges a grade of C- on its latest infrastructure report card. The group notes that bridges play a vital role in a place like Kentucky to keep the commonwealth connected with so many valleys, rivers and other waterways.

Federal data lists the following Kentucky counties with the highest percentage of bridges classified as ‘good’:

  1. Taylor County: 78.89%
  2. Larue County: 68.52%
  3. Marion County: 68.24%
  4. Christian County: 66.67%
  5. Menifee County: 63.83%
  6. Morgan County: 62.96%
  7. Meade County: 62.5%
  8. Green County: 62.5%
  9. Breckinridge County: 60.44%
  10. Washington County: 60.2%

Here’s the breakdown for Fayette County:

  • Total bridges: 198
  • Good: 45
  • Fair: 143
  • Poor: 10

State leaders are focusing on trying to improve bridges across the commonwealth. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s ‘Bridging Kentucky’ program, which is already underway, has highlighted 1,100 bridges to be rehabbed, repaired or replaced in a six-year period.

INTERACTIVE: Fact Check | Kentucky Bridge Safety:

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