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Federal Analysis Points Out Troubled Bridges

Thursday, April 1, 2021

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In a recent analysis conducted by the American Road and Transportation Association, more than 220,000 of the nation’s bridges need major repair or should be replaced.

The analysis was reported using information from the U.S. Department of Transportation 2020 National Bridge Inventory database.

Structurally Deficient Bridges

The 220,000 bridges represents 36%, or more than one-third, of all the nation’s bridges. In the report, the ARTBA points out that although the number of structurally deficient bridges declined 2.5% last year to 45,000, the number of bridges listed as being in fair condition increased by more than 3,600 to roughly 295,000.

In looking closer at those numbers, of the 45,000 structurally deficient bridges, nearly 11,200 are in serious or worse condition, with 1,668 listed as being in critical condition, 440 are in imminent failure stages and 970 that are already in a failed condition and are out of service.

RyanJLane / Getty Images

In a recent analysis conducted by the American Road and Transportation Association, more than 220,000 of the nation’s bridges need major repair or should be replace.

The states with the most serious or worse bridge conditions are:

  • Iowa (1,762 bridges);
  • Oklahoma (922);
  • Illinois (764);
  • Pennsylvania (728);
  • Missouri (700); and
  • Louisiana (638).

To repair or replace the current backlog of structurally deficient bridges that ARTBA estimates that the work could take up to 40 years if completed at the current pace it’s working to now.

“The current 40-year timeline to repair bridges in poor condition is an unacceptable outcome for the American motoring public,” ARTBA Chief Economist Alison Premo Black, who led the team conducting the analysis, said in a statement. “The bridge conditions report highlights key national infrastructure challenges and underscores the need for congressional action this year on a robust multiyear transportation investment bill.”

The estimated cost to repair all the structurally deficient bridge is $41.8 billion, based on average cost data published by USDOT.

Declining Infrastructure

At the beginning of the month, PaintSquare Daily News reported that the American Society of Civil Engineers released its 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, revealing a mediocre, but passing grade. The ASCE, which issues the report every four years, gave the nation a C- for the condition and performance of its infrastructure, a slight improvement from the 2017 report.

The ASCE also pointed out that while strides are being made in the infrastructure sector, the long-term investment gap continues to grow. Over the last 10 years alone, the gap has increased from $2.1 trillion to nearly $2.59 trillion. In its 2021 study, "Failure to Act: Economic Impacts of Status Quo Investment Across Infrastructure Systems," the ASCE predicts that by 2039, infrastructure could cost American households $3,300 a year, or $63 a week.

In addition to creating that sense of urgency to find solutions in rehabilitating and rebuilding various infrastructure across the nation, the ASCE suggests that investments from all levels of government and the private sector from 2.5% to 3.5% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product by 2025, among other suggestions made in relations to leadership and action, investments and resilience.

Of the 17 categories making up the overall grade, 11 were in the D range, indicating “significant deterioration” and that the structures are “approaching the end of their service life.” The categories included aviation, public parks, dams, roads, schools, hazardous waste, stormwater, inland waterways, transit, levees and wastewater.

Areas receiving higher grades include bridges, which dropped from a C+ to a C in 2021, energy, drinking water and solid waste. The remaining categories: ports and rail, received a B- and B, respectively.

In expanding on the nation’s bridges specifically, of the more than 617,000, 7.5% are considered structurally deficient and nearly 42% are at least 50 years old. The ASCE also estimates that the nation’s backlog of bridge repair requires $125 billion. Additional estimates revealed that spending on bridge rehabilitation would need to increase from the current $14.4 billion annually to $22.7 billion annually, or by 58%, if conditions are to improve.

Rhode Island has the greatest percentage of structurally deficient bridges, the report notes, with 22.3% of its bridges fitting the category. Nevada and Texas tied with the smallest percentage, with just 1.3% percen Looking at roads in the report, the D grade hadn’t changed since 2017, but notes that 43% of public roadways are in poor or mediocre condition.

“This report card is a warning and a call to action,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told The Associated Press. “A generation of disinvestment is catching up to us, and we must choose whether to allow our global competitors to pull ahead permanently, or to invest in the safety, equity, resilience and economic strength that superior infrastructure can bring to Americans.”

To view the full report, click here.


Tagged categories: American Road & Trans Builders Assn (ARTBA); Bridges; Bridges; Department of Transportation (DOT); Infrastructure; NA; North America; Quality Control; Rehabilitation/Repair; Research; Transportation

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