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Rural bridges are first to be replaced because they're 'shovel-ready'

Rural bridges that don't get used much will be the first ones replaced in Wisconsin with federal stimulus money.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that the first 37 bridge projects approved by state lawmakers carry an average of only 568 vehicles a day.

And two bridges in Iowa and Douglas counties only carry about 10 cars and trucks per day.

Meanwhile, repairs for urban bridges which get 60,000 cars a day were not eligible for the first round of funding.

Beth Cannestra of the state Department of Transportation said the busiest bridges often require the most engineering and more time is needed to adjust utilities before construction can begin.

In other words, those projects are not shovel-ready.

Officials said the first bridge projects met the federal criteria for getting contractors on the job quickly.

Meanwhile, highway officials around the state are scrambling for the next round of funding. Those applications are due Dec. 8.

About $116 million will be available in the next round.

Fifty-million of that is committed for projects around Milwaukee, Madison, and the far reaches of the Chicago metro.

All told, Wisconsin is getting $529 million in economic stimulus dollars for new roads and bridges, putting 13,000 people to work.