Bigger trucks will cause bigger problem for Iowa's ailing bridges, state and local officials tell Congress

A crew from Cramer and Associates works on demolition on the Highway 965 bridge over the Iowa River with a barge below t
A crew from Cramer and Associates works on demolition on the Highway 965 bridge over the Iowa River with a barge below to catch debris in Johnson County on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

As Iowa continues to find itself leading the nation in battered bridges, some local officials have called attention to the size of the trucks on the roads.

In June, more than 50 Iowa leaders — including mayors, county supervisors and engineers, joined more than 1,000 officials across the country in a letter to Congress expressing opposition to proposals to allow for increased truck length or weight.

“Local communities and our residents are what drive this country. We work every day to make sure the needs and safety of our residents are met. Allowing heavier and longer trucks will most certainly set us back in our efforts,” the letter states.

Proposals made to Congress by Americans for Modern Transportation, an organization pushing for an efficient transportation system, would allow for increased size limits for trucks.

Proponents argue bigger trucks allow for more efficient movement of cargo, while others worry bigger, heavier trucks put more strain on the nation’s infrastructure — namely aging bridges.

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s 2019 Bridge Report, which uses Federal Highway Administration data, found that 4,675 — more than 19 percent — of Iowa’s bridges are classified as structurally deficient, meaning they are in need of some form of repair.

“Iowa already allows some heavy trucks, which is readily apparent when driving on some of these roads,” Brian Keierleber, Buchanan County engineer and past president of the National Association of County Engineers, said in the release. “Even in light of these devastating statistics, special interests continue to push to expand overweight trucks across our state and nation.”


State officials have noted that, of the more than 4,000 county bridges on the list, the median traffic volume is 35 vehicles a day.

Of the 485 bridges in Linn County last year, 21 were considered in poor condition, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

In Johnson County, 40 of the county’s 362 bridges were in poor condition last year.

In 2016, a U.S. Department of Transportation report — the Comprehensive Truck Size and Weight Limits Study — found insufficient data to provide a recommendation on any regulatory change to truck size or weight.

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