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(AP) — A no-frills concrete bridge on the edge of Stockland, Illinois, represents just the kind of headache the nation's soybean farmers hope a multimillion-dollar campaign and a little creative thinking will cure.
The 50-feet concrete span and hundreds like it in soybean-growing states can't handle the weight of fully loaded grain trucks that'll be bringing an expected record harvest to grain elevators this fall.
The county has an urban area with about 200,000 people and beyond that tens of thousands of acres of farmland.
Priorities in those two areas can widely vary, county Engineer Amy Mc Laren said, and the county has limited money — about $2 million a year for its almost 200 bridges, any one of which could run up to $1.5 million to replace.
Three bridges with weight limits were found to be strong enough for the department to lift those limits, Steenhoek said.
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The bridge-testing technology, which Steenhoek said his group will help finance in other states, is an improvement on traditional inspections, according to John Frauenhoffer, a veteran inspector and director of the American Society of Civil Engineers' Board of Direction.That means those who use the often small, obscure bridges will have to make more trips and spend more money.In this July 25, 2014 photo, the owner of Stockland Grain Co.in Stockland, Ill., says this small bridge just west of town is widely used by farmers trying to reach the company's elevator.But the little bridge won't handle fully loaded trucks, forcing farmers to make extra trips and spend extra money.That money is of particular importance in rural counties in states such as Iowa and Illinois, the two largest producers.But those counties have small, often dwindling populations and the bridges are lightly used outside of hauling crops to market, which makes them a tough sell to state and local policymakers.Even at Friday's depressed price of less than a bushel, a full truckload of 900 bushels of soybeans would sell for close to ,900.The Illinois Soybean Association is working to pick a handful of bridges in each county to focus attention and resources on and, it hopes, present creative potential solutions, according to Scott Sigman, who works on transportation issues for the association.The trade groups that represent soybean farmers say bridges like this all across the country need improvement and they're hoping a campaign to focus attention on this critical piece of the transportation infrastructure they rely on will pay off with better bridges and a better understanding among government decision-makers of their importance to farmers.(AP Photo/David Mercer) Since farmers' profits are dropping this year alongside crop prices, bridge-infrastructure needs have come into sharper focus.