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>>Bridges: Designing, Building, Preserving
Celebrating 125 Years
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see it up ahead: an arch of gleaming steel, half a mile of concrete, lanes
filled to capacity, spanning
a surging river.
It’s Mike Todsen’s job to make sure you make it safely to
the other side.Todsen (’94 civil engineering) is a special projects
engineer for bridge maintenance and inspection for the Iowa Department
of Transportation. For nine years, he has inspected the major Mississippi
and Missouri River bridges that connect Iowa to its neighboring states.
Iowa is the lead state on the inspection of 12 river bridges, each of
which must be thoroughly inspected every other year. Todsen says he generally
finds only minor deterioration that needs to be repaired. Inspections
guide the department as it plans bridge replacement over the next 20 years.
Inspection crews spend two to three weeks inspecting a river bridge for
cracks and deterioration in the concrete and steel. Entire days are spent
suspended beneath the bridge in a bucket barely big enough for two men
and a flashlight. Traffic booms above; water roars below.
Todsen chuckles at the suggestion of danger. “One of the questions
they asked at the job interview was, ‘Do you have a fear of heights?’
It doesn’t bother me.”