I find that there are often disconnects between reality and the political narratives we choose to embrace. The issue of rural bridges is a good example of this disconnect.
First, a bit of background: Every Iowa county has hundreds of miles of gravel roads.
In addition, many of these roads have multiple bridges. Some are concrete, some are steel, and some are timber, but they all serve the same purpose.
We replace a few of these bridges every year, and I can tell you the cost is pretty much always between $300,000-$600,000, depending upon the length.
This is how farmers get to their fields. This is how farmers get to town. The rural economy functions best when these bridges are well maintained.
In addition, there is a public safety factor. Fire trucks, ambulances and sheriff’s vehicles need to be able to access the residents of the area via a quick and direct route.
On the other hand, the cost of these bridges adds up.
Needless to say, many people feel it is foolish to invest so much money in these bridges when the total traffic counts are so low.
I have served as a supervisor for 14 years. In that time, Johnson County has never permanently closed a bridge. I am extremely proud of that fact.
But you won’t find a bunch of farmers singing my praises. In fact, you’ll find the exact opposite – farmers talking about how much they hate my work as a supervisor.
Here is where the disconnect comes in.
Washington County – with more farms than Johnson County – has closed bridges. The Washington County Board is made up of all conservative Republicans. But they have closed bridges.
Like many areas of our politics today, the realities of bridge building do not match the political narrative.