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Floyd, neighbor counties seek millions in bridge grants

Floyd, neighbor counties seek millions in bridge grants
RAISE Grant proposal by Floyd, Bremer and Fayette counties.
By Bob Steenson,

A federally funded grant program could bring millions of dollars into Floyd and neighboring counties to help fix deficient bridges.

The Floyd County Board of Supervisors approved applying for the 2024 RAISE Grant at its meeting Monday morning.

The application is for Floyd, Fayette and Bremer counties, and if approved will be managed for the three counties by Floyd County Engineer Jacob Page.

Page told the supervisors that the application covers areas in the counties that are considered “persistent poverty areas” or “historically disadvantaged community census tracts,” and provides 100% of the construction cost for bridge repair or replacement.

Page said Floyd County was chosen among the three county’s engineers to be the lead applicant because he had not applied for one before and so may get extra points on the application. If approved, Floyd County would act as the awardee for the projects but each county would be in charge of its own projects.

The three counties used a grant writer to put together the application then split the cost for that service.

“Iowa’s rural bridges are in crisis,” the application says, noting that 4,272 bridges on the county road system are rated in poor condition.

“Unfortunately, Iowa has the distinction of leading the nation with the greatest number of poor bridges,” the application says. The next nearest state, Pennsylvania, has more than 1,200 fewer poor bridges.

“Policies at the federal level and state level have consistently underfunded and diverted bridge funding from these vital ‘first mile’ and Farm-to-Market bridges. Decades of these policies have resulted in a true crisis for rural Iowa bridges and the citizens that rely on them for their livelihood and well-being,” the application says.

“As a consequence of federal rules used to allocate bridge funds that have a bias against rural Iowa bridges and state rules that divert bridge funding away from lower volume rural bridges, local governments and citizens are left as the last resort to fund these vital local bridges,” it says.

“Bremer County, Fayette County and Floyd County all have significant portions of their populations in Area of Persistent Poverty, or a Historically Disadvantaged Community census tracts. … These residents are least able to afford this cost.”

The application proposed seven bridge projects in Floyd County, five in Bremer County and 16 in Fayette County.

The biggest project proposed for the grant in Floyd County is the Orchard Bridge over the Cedar River in northcentral Floyd County.

“That’s one where it’s hard for us to get our funding to even be able to do that bridge because it’s so expensive,” Page said. The amount Floyd County is applying for is $9 million, which would allow the county to complete seven different bridge projects in the three years after the grant is awarded.

“If we’re awarded,” he added. “It’s a very competitive grant, but I think we have a good position to have a good shot at it.”

Supervisor Jim Jorgensen asked how wide the bridge replacement would be on the Orchard Bridge if approved.

Page said it would be 30 or 30½ feet wide.

“We want to widen it,” he said. “That’s another thing that helps, too with the grants. If your bridge width is wide enough it actually counts as being able to be used by pedestrians or bicyclists.”

Page said the county would still have to do all the design work on its bridge projects and pay some other incidental costs such as inspections.

“Right now we’re only in the planning phase and if we don’t get the grant obviously then we’re we’re not going to be able to do seven bridges in three years. That won’t happen,” he said. “But the Orchard Bridge is kind of one that’s on the list of what we need to accomplish, and it will be very expensive to do so.

Fayette County is proposing to do 16 projects, but they are smaller projects, including some culvert replacements. Bremer County is proposing to do five larger projects.

Supervisor Chair Mark Kuhn asked for comments on the proposal from the public and, hearing none, said he would speak for residents who drive over the county bridges on a regular basis.

“This is something we need to do,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to attain it on our regular own basis. It’s a great application and and I see no downside to participating.”

Fayette County signed the application at a meeting last week, Kuhn signed for Floyd County Monday morning, and Page said Bremer would be the last to sign before they submit it.

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