Several bridges are in poor condition in the Triad, according to the latest National Bridge Inventory data. But state officials say that doesn’t necessarily mean they are unsafe.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation evaluates bridges based on National Bridge Inspection Standards. Bridges are considered in poor condition if they score under a five — on a zero through nine scale — in at least one of four categories: superstructure, substructure, deck condition, or culvert condition. 

The superstructure is the main part of the bridge — it carries the weight of the load. A substructure supports the superstructure. The deck is the roadway portion of the bridge, and the culvert is a kind of pipe or drain that allows water to pass under the structure. 

Inspectors have designated 85 bridges in Forsyth and Guilford Counties as being in “poor condition” using these standards. Brian Hanks, with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, says that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dangerous though.

“Poor condition bridges, it's just a title to help us understand the condition. They're safe," says Hanks. "If they’re not safe, we will close the bridge.”

Of the 85 poor-condition bridges in Forsyth and Guilford counties, two were closed at the time of inspection. Thirty-two remained open with some kind of restriction or temporary repair in place. The rest were open restriction-free. 

Hanks says the percentage of poor-condition bridges has been dropping statewide in recent years. 

“In 2014, our poor condition was around 16% statewide," says Hanks. "Now that number is about 8.5%.”

He says bridge replacements have helped bring that number down. Currently, 26 bridges in Forsyth and Guilford counties are slated to be replaced in the next six years. 

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