Cowley is county with waterways that crisscross the land with a large number of bridges — 260 — that span them. And many of the bridges are old. Some need repair, some need replaced.
Ninety-seven of the 260 are classified as Rural Secondary Bridges located on county major collector roads. Collector roads are designed to carry traffic from local streets to arterial roads.
The others 163 are classified as Off-System Bridges located on township roads and county minor collector roads.
Most of the county bridges (75 percent) are more than 50 years old. Of those, 42 are 90 years or older, 80 are 80-89 years, 17 are 70-79 years, 35 are 60-69 years, 22 are 50-59 years.
For the remaining, six are 40-49 years, seven are 30-39 years, 15 are 20-29 years, 27 are 10-19 years and nine are less than 10 years old.
The county also maintains more than 3,000 drainage structures on county and township maintained roads.
Of the bridges, 18 are classified as “structurally deficient.” Wilt said he thinks of a headline every time he goes across Bridge 99, on Cowley 28 over Grouse Creek, just east of the Kansas Highway 15 turn south to Dexter. “I can see the headline: ‘County commissioner goes down with the bridge.’”
(Read more: The Arkansas City Traveler)