Report: One in Nine Bridges Structurally Deficient

Image: Report: One in Nine Bridges Structurally Deficient Inspectors check the structural integrity of the Rachel Carson bridge in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, 19 Jun 2013 01:35 PM

By Courtney Coren

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One-in-nine bridges in the United States are structurally deficient, according to a new report which says that Americans make 260 million trips across such bridges each day.

The report from Transportation for America, an advocacy group whose mission is improving transportation infrastructure across the country, released its "State of Our Nation's Bridges 2013" report on Wednesday, detailing the dire condition of 11 percent of the bridges in America.

"While most bridges are designed to last 50 years before major overhaul or replacement, the average age of an American bridge is well past middle age at 43 years," the report states.

However, many of the "structurally deficient bridges are 65 years old on average," and, according to the report, "in just 10 years, one in four bridges (170,000) will be over 65, an age at which it's far more likely that a bridge will be deficient."

The data used by Transportation for America in this report is taken from the National Bridge Inventory and state-collected data, which is then given to and published by the Federal Highway Administration.

A deficient bridge does not mean there is an immediate threat of a calamity. However, Transportation for America warns that if the necessary repairs are not addressed, it could lead to a bridge closure or, in the worst case scenario, a collapse.

There is a slight drop from 11.5 percent of bridges that were declared deficient in the 2011 report, which Transportation for America attributes to money invested from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

However, "over the last four years, we repaired three times fewer bridges than were repaired between 1992 and 1996," the report said.

While states are making efforts of their own to address the problem, recent actions by Congress slowed repairs down when it passed legislation that "eliminated a dedicated fund for bridge repair in the renewal of the federal transportation program, known as MAP-21."

This means "that bridge repair must compete with other transportation needs."

The bill also limited funds to only those bridges that are considered part of the National Highway System — which accounts for only 10 percent of the structurally deficient bridges.

Transportation for America is recommending by September 2014, when the current transportation authorization expires, Congress should invest more money into bridge repair, allow the more than 180,000 bridges in need of repair access to federal aid, and make the repair of the structurally deficient bridges a priority.

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