Study: 58K US bridges are structurally deficient — down from 61K in 2014
- An American Road and Transportation Builders Association study has found that, in 2015, almost 10% of U.S. bridges — 58,495 — were structurally deficient.
- The five states with the most deficient bridges are Iowa (5,025), Pennsylvania (4,783), Oklahoma (3,776), Missouri (3,222) and Nebraska (2,474), and the five states with the biggest percentage share of deficient bridges are Rhode Island (23.2%), Pennsylvania (21%), Iowa (20.7%), South Dakota (19.7%) and Oklahoma (16.4%).
- The term "deficient" covers bridges that are both unsafe and those that simply need repairs or updates for weight limits, according to USA Today. The United States Department of Transportation estimates that there is a $115 billion backlog for repairs for deficient or obsolete bridges, and, at the current rate of investment, it would take 21 years to replace or upgrade all the required bridges.
More than 61,000 bridges were labeled structurally deficient in 2014, so the most recent count is a slight improvement. However, the ARTBA estimates that vehicles currently cross deficient bridges 200 million times a day. A particular concern is the maintenance of bridges that are heavily traveled, many of which were built before 1970 when the interstate highway system was created.
Even though Congress passed a five-year, $305 billion highway bill in December, ARTBA officials said they are concerned that in four years, states will slow down funding for bridge repair.
"Congress basically put a Band-aid on it," Alison Black, ARTBA’s chief economist, told USA Today. "It’s going to take major new investments by all levels of government to move toward eliminating the huge backlog of bridge work in the United States."
Although Congress has rejected the possibility of increasing the federal gas tax to raise funding for highway and bridges, 16 states have implemented their own gas taxes, and many others are considering such a move.
In November, Brendan Bechtel, president of the Bechtel Group, wrote a USA Today op-ed piece addressing the nation’s infrastructure, which he called a "crumbling, unsafe, environmentally unfriendly, productivity-choking system several generations old." In his article, he urged Congress to increase investment immediately in America’s infrastructure and suggested public-private partnerships as a way to revamp roads and highways as efficiently as possible.
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