Many bridges in Germany are in poor condition, in the worst case they have to be closed – to the annoyance of motorists. Now a new report shows the extent of the need for rehabilitation.
Construction experts see high levels of wear and tear on bridges in Germany. Almost half of the 25 highest bridges are in at least one critical condition, according to the Federal Quality Association for the Repair of Concrete Structures. Eleven of the tallest bridges had significant deficits in load capacity, it said.
The federal government recently passed a bill that would allow bridges to be renovated more quickly. The Rahmede motorway bridge on the Sauerland line, which has been completely closed for a year and a half due to severe damage, is making headlines – and at the same time interrupting a central traffic route from Dortmund to Hesse and Bavaria. This Sunday (May 7th) the bridge is to be blown up.
According to the investigation commissioned by the Federal Quality Assurance Association for the Repair of Concrete Structures, many bridges are overloaded. “The condition of many bridges in the highway network is critical,” said Marco Götze, chairman of the federal quality association.
No restrictions on use
A poor condition rating does not automatically mean that a bridge can no longer be fully used. “However, to ensure that there are no restrictions on use in the first place, upgrading and maintenance must be planned and carried out in good time. Extensive modernization and reinforcement measures are pending, especially for bridges that were not designed for the current and still growing heavy traffic.”
The federal quality association had examined the structural situation of the 25 highest bridges. According to this, twelve bridges received grades between 3 and 3.5 and are therefore in a critical or unsatisfactory structural condition. These included the two substructures of the Kochertalbrücke, the Moselletalbrücke, the Lösterbachtalbrücke and the Neckarburgbrücke, especially bridge constructions from the 1970s and earlier, it said. For the other half of the bridges, the condition grades were in the range of 2 to 2.9, which corresponds to a satisfactory to sufficient structural condition.
The bridge summit with Federal Minister of Transport Volker Wissing (FDP) was a year ago, the situation was precarious and the problem in the Ministry of Transport had been known at least since then, complained the Greens member of the Bundestag Stefan Gelbhaar. “The house, including the house management, must use all its strength to secure and refurbish the existing network – especially when it comes to maintaining the bridges,” he demanded. “400 bridges have to be renovated every year, and Autobahn GmbH is currently not even able to manage half of them.” Here it is necessary to decide: “Should bridges continue to crumble? The answer must be no. Even if that means pushing other Autobahn GmbH projects first or canceling them entirely,” said Gelbhaar.