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Failing Metro Bridges Carry Millions Daily

Monday, October 24, 2011

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“There are more deficient bridges in our metropolitan areas than there are McDonald’s restaurants in the entire country.”

So says James Corless, director of Transportation for America, and he has the grim numbers to prove it.

More than 18,000—18,239, to be exact—of the nation’s busiest bridges are rated as “structurally deficient,” while the nation has about 14,000 McDonald’s, according to The Fix We’re In: The State of America’s Bridges, an analysis just released by Transportation for America (T4A).

The Fix We're In: The State of America's Bridges

Worse, the group says, deficient big-city bridges carry about 210 million trips daily—more than three times the number of McCustomers served each day.

T4A is a Washington, DC-based coalition of more than 500 real estate, housing, environmental, public health, business and transportation groups and political leaders that advocates for infrastructure funding.

The new report follows a similar analysis by T4A in March that analyzed bridge integrity by state and county and provided an interactive mapping tool to identify individual bridge ratings.

Big Cities, Bad Bridges

The report is drawn from a T4A analysis of the 2010 National Bridge Inventory, a database released in February 2011 by the Federal Highway Administration.

That analysis found that one in nine U.S. bridges—about 70,000 nationwide—has been rated “structurally deficient,” which means that it needs more frequent monitoring and critical, near-term maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement.

The new report ranks 102 metropolitan areas over 500,000 people in three population categories, based on the percentage of deficient bridges.

The bottom line: One-fourth of U.S. bridges, located in the largest metro areas, carry a whopping 75 percent of the trips made on structurally deficient bridges, the new report found.

396 Drivers per Second

What does that mean? The report found, for example:

• In Los Angeles, 396 drivers cross a deficient bridge every second.

• In Pittsburgh, PA, more than 30 percent of bridges are deficient—the highest percentage in the nation.
• Oklahoma City, OK, (19.8 percent) topped the chart for metro areas between 1-2 million, while Tulsa, OK, led (27.5 percent) for areas between 500,000 and 1 million people.

• California has the busiest metro-area bridges (led by Los Angeles), while Pennsylvania leads the nation with the most metropolitan areas (six) with a high percentage of deficient bridges.

Just over 26 percent of Pennsylvania’s bridges are rated deficient—a percentage that would be even higher if not for a recent program that quadrupled state funding for bridge repairs, the report notes.

About one-third of the nation’s bridges are older than the typical design lifespan of 50 years, the report says.

“These metropolitan-area bridges are most costly and difficult to fix, but they also are the most urgent, because they carry such a large share of the nation’s people and goods,” said Corless.

Emergency Closings

The report notes emergency bridge closings that have wreaked havoc with urban commuters nationwide and says the problem will grow “with the majority of American bridges soon due for major maintenance, overhaul or replacement.”

Deficient bridges in metro areas have proved a “stubborn” problem “that current transportation programs have not been able to address adequately,” the report says.

 FHWA bridge repair chart

Transportation for America

The problem: These bridges’ enormous size, structural complexity and heavy daily traffic—all the same factors that age them—also make them extremely complicated and expensive to repair or replace.

On the other hand, T4A says, targeting resources toward selected heavily traveled deficient bridges in major metropolitan areas would dramatically improve safety for much of the traveling public

‘Not Going Away’

“A sincere initiative to fix these bridges would put thousands of people to work, while ensuring that these critical links continue to carry people safely to work and that goods can make it to market, now and well into the future,” said Corless.

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that eliminating the backlog of potentially dangerous bridges would cost $70.9 billion, while the federal outlay for bridges amounts to slightly more than $5 billion per year.

Said Andy Herrmann, president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers: “The poor condition of our bridges is a problem that is not going away.”

Structurally deficient bridges by city and state


Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Failure analysis; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Mass transit

Comment from Car F., (10/25/2011, 12:54 PM)

I would love to see a graphic or pie chart showing the money spend on military adventures, invasions of sovereing countries and wars of aggression versus the money spend on maintaining the infrastructure, of which bridges are only one component. The total expenditure picture should include roads, schools, hospitals, parks, waterways, airports...and the list goes on. Let's face it folks,you have better chances of dying in a collapsing public structure than from a terror attack. Somehow the delusion and manipulation needs to stop and place the resources instead in the right place.

Comment from Billy Russell, (10/25/2011, 3:24 PM)

Our military men an women are protecting us from having to fight them in our streets lets focus on the lack of maintance to our infrastructure Bridges along with water tanks were ignored for too long blasting and painting is the long term solution period.

Comment from Billy Russell, (10/26/2011, 11:15 AM)

Sir,I would elect a poor common working man,let one of us go through the Budget in washington and let me cut ALL the fat pet projects out lets leave the soldiers alone and be grateful for thier service I will not cut public health from the elderly but will require drug testing for all who get checks in the mail claiming they cant find work in 22 years in this industery I have never drawn not one unemployment check, cut the fat out of washington including their pensions and anual salary you will find more than enough money to repair and maintain our Bridges with out them we are lost anyway....... Protecting this country is an entirely differant matter lets stick with the issue at hand please like blasting and painting (PLEASE SIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Comment from Car F., (10/26/2011, 11:51 AM)

Mr.Russell: any suggestion where the funding should be taken from to finance much needed infraestructure maintenance?; perhaps from education, public health, protection for the elderly or perhaps widow's pensions and orphanages' over inflated budgets? about from the war profiteers and the war machine producers?....just an idea....

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