Dean’s job is to inspect the bridges of Cloud County
Did you know that there are 265 bridges in Cloud County? Some of them are over 100 years old.
It's Don Dean's job to inspect all of the bridges owned by Cloud County at least every two years. If a bridge is showing its age or has excessive wear and tear, then it must be inspected more often.
An engineer for Campbell & Johnson, Dean has been a certified bridge inspector for 20 years. Campbell & Johnson have been the official bridge inspectors for all the bridges owned by Cloud County since the 1960's. They also currently have the contract to inspect 300 bridges in Jewell County and 260 bridges in Republic County.
Interesting fact: in order for a structure to be considered a bridge it must be over 20 feet long. If it's exactly 20 feet long, or less, its not a bridge. If it's 20 feet and one-quarter inch long, or longer, it's a bridge.
When Dean inspects a bridge he examines the overall condition of the structure, and then checks for cracks on the deck, in the steel support beams and the concrete pillars. He also closely examines the ground for soil erosion around the anchor pylons.
"I take photographs of everything," Dean said. "That way we can document the progression of any problems as the years go by."
If Dean finds something like a small crack on the deck, he'll take a photo of it and measure the size of the crack. If the crack grows larger it must be repaired. If a structural problem develops that could become a threat to the stability of the bridge, the bridge would be closed until the problem is fixed.
Dean files an official inspection report of each bridge, along with photographs and charts and measurements, with the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). The state reviews each report and then sends it to various federal government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. Similar records are compiled from all the states in the U.S., and it gives the federal government an overall view of the condition of America's bridges. This information can then in turn determine how much federal aid will be allocated to each state for bridge repair.
Dean must re-certify as a bridge inspector every five years, and participate in seminars and online courses throughout those years.
The overall condition of the bridges in Cloud County?
"We're in good shape," Dean said. "But we always have to check, just to be sure."