The collapse of bridge 1950102, a bridge without a name, in Dekalb, Illinois happened suddenly. “A guy in a small pick-up truck, one of the Donnelley’s from local, had just crossed it, and he felt like it was trembling or something,” reflects soybean farmer Paul Rasmussen. “He thought something was wrong. So, he stopped when he got across the bridge and he looked back and that’s when the bridge caved in.”
Today, the bridge remains collapsed in the Kishwaukee River, a body of water looking more like an irrigation ditch than a river which runs between corn and soybean fields in Dekalb, Illinois. Now a dangerous 130-foot gap in Keslinger Road remains poorly marked. The bridge’s remains of concrete rubble and wooden pilings lay along side the byway bisecting some of America’s most productive farmland.
Built in 1976, the bridge without a name was a simple span with about 100 vehicles crossing it per day. Far more signifiant, however, than the number of pick-up trucks, school buses and farm tractors that passed over it during its 30 plus years of service, were the bushels of corn and soybeans farmers hauled over it. Local farmer’s, harvesting over 600 acres in the immediate area, depended on the rural bridge in order to compete with Brazilian soybean farmers trying to beat them to markets in China.
“All of the sudden…,” remarks farmer Rasmussen speaking about his fellow farmer’s impact from losing the use of the 130-ft bridge, “…instead of a simple trip down this road to get there, depending on the size of the equipment, the weight of the loads, he may have to go as far as 16.7 miles to get his job done.” The Illinois Soybean Association, a non-profit group advocating to have the bridge rebuilt, has calculated the cost to the impacted farmers to be 5 cents per bushel – a serious impact to agrarians measuring their productivity, costs, and net-worth in bushels.
“Infrastructure is starting to fail us,” lectures Ken Eriksen, Senior Economist at Informa Economics. “It may be one bridge here in the middle of Illinois, but we have competitors around the world who are willing to come to the market and be more competitive than us. Our advantage here in the United States is that we have infrastructure that has served us well.” Eriksen, speaking on behalf of the Illinois Soybean Association emphasizes, “Infrastrucure is everything. It needs to be maintained. It needs to be rehabilitated. We need to think, how do we strategically reinvest in the system that is going to be adequate, not just for tomorrow, but for 5 years, 20 years, thirty years down the road. We are a stable economy. We can produce like there is no tomorrow. We have some of the best farmers in the world. But, they’re only rewarded when the infrastructure allows it.”