An Advocate report said Louisiana is among a handful of states that showed an increase in the number of "structurally deficient" bridges in recent years.

The state has 1,827 bridges--14 percent of the statewide total--that are in this category, but officials from the Department of Transportation and Development are downplaying concerns that the bridges are unsafe to travel.

"It does not mean unsafe," Eric Kalivoda, deputy secretary for DOTD, told the newspaper. "This is just a technical term that is used to describe a bridge where some of the elements have deteriorated or they have been damaged."

The Advocate made a public records request in June for a comprehensive list of the bridges, but the newspaper's request was rejected because the bridges are inspected under a program mostly financed by federal dollars and is kept off limits by federal law.

Kalivoda insisted the problem bridges were not highly trafficked and that the vast majority were shorter bridges in rural areas.

"If it is unsafe we will close it," Kalivoda said. "We do that on a regular basis, much to the chagrin of people."

Bridges are inspected at least once every two years.