Bluffton Road bridge safe to use, but ruled deficient

FORT WAYNE (WANE) – More than 30,000 drivers travel on the bridge on Bluffton Road over the St. Mary’s River every single day. Recently it made a list of the top 25 most used, structurally deficient bridges in the state. That may worry some of these drivers, but county officials say there’s no need to worry.

“It’s an unfortunately harsh term and it sounds like you shouldn’t drive over the bridge,” Allen County Highway Department Director Bill Hartman said.

So what does structurally deficient mean? Well, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, which released the list, it means one or more of the key bridge elements is considered in poor or worse condition.

Hartman said after inspections last year the Bluffton Road bridge was ruled deficient.

“There’s just minor cracking in different locations that had to be recorded and put into a formula and it makes that designation,” Hartman said.

Hartman isn’t worried.

According to the Association eight percent of the state’s bridges, more than 1,500 of them, are ruled deficient. Right now there are no travel restrictions, like weight limits, on the Bluffton Road bridge, and there are no immediate plans to put money toward repairs. Those plans would come about if there were to be a weight limit put on it like there is on 19 other bridges in the county.

“They are the ones on my radar to immediately try to do something with,” Hartman said.

In all, 1,463 bridges in Indiana have weight restrictions including the Van Buren Street bridge, Lima Road bridge near Huntertown and the Elizabeth Street bridge near Downtown. Since the designation, the Bluffton Road bridge will be inspected annually by a structural engineer.