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New report highlights mounting challenge of aging bridges

One in 9 rated “structurally deficient” as average age nears 50 years. In state rankings, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Iowa have largest backlog of deficient bridges

WASHINGTON, D.C. – One in nine of the bridges and overpasses American drivers cross each day is rated in poor enough condition that they could become dangerous or be closed without near-term repair, according to a report released today by Transportation for America.

Nearly 70,000 bridges nationwide are rated “structurally deficient” and are in need of substantial repair or replacement, according to federal data. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that the backlog of potentially dangerous bridges would cost $70.9 billion to eliminate, while the federal outlay for bridges amounts to slightly more than $5 billion per year.

The report, The Fix We’re In For: The State of the Nation’s Bridges, ranks states in terms of the overall condition of the state’s bridges, with one being the worst, 51 being the best. Twenty-three states across the country have a higher percentage of deficient bridges than the national average of 11.5 percent.

The five states with the worst bridge conditions have over 20 percent structurally deficient bridges: Pennsylvania has the largest share of deteriorating bridges at 26.5 percent, followed by Oklahoma (22.0%), Iowa (21.7%), Rhode Island (21.6%), and South Dakota (20.3%).

At the other end of the spectrum, five states have less than 5 percent of their bridges rated structurally deficient: Nevada leads the rankings at 2.2 percent, followed by Florida (2.4%), Texas (3.0%), Arizona (3.0%), and Utah (4.5%). The table on the bottom of the main report page shows all 50 states and the District of Columbia ranked by their percentage of structurally deficient bridges, with “1” being the worst conditions and “51” the best.

“Since the 2007 collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, Americans have been acutely aware of the critical need to maintain our bridges,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. That need is growing rapidly, the report authors noted, as the average age of bridges passes 42 years for bridges that mostly were designed to have a 50-year lifespan before reconstruction or replacement.

“As Congress takes up the next six-year transportation bill, it is imperative that we devote a larger share of funding to protecting our bridges” Corless said. “Americans also want to see more accountability for maintaining our infrastructure: 64 percent of voters say that the way government currently spends money on building and maintaining our transportation infrastructure is inefficient and unwise, according to a February poll for the Rockefeller Foundation.”

Hit the jump to see the full state rankings

Congress has repeatedly declared the condition and safety of America’s bridges to be of national significance. However, the current federal program falls short of the need, even as it allows states to shift funds from maintenance toward new construction, whether or not they can show progress toward rehabilitating deficient bridges.

Some states have worked hard to address the problem and have seen their backlog of deficient bridges shrink in number. For example, the Washington Department of Transportation has adopted a policy to give top priority to making repairs before costly reconstruction is needed. Compared to a national average of 11.5 percent, only 5.1 percent of Washington’s bridges are considered structurally deficient.

“Washington State Department of Transportation has made sound policy choices but our state, like so many others, is cash-strapped and needs greater federal support,” said Paula Hammond, Washington State DOT secretary. “The federal government should recognize those states that have made asset management a priority and increase funding available to meet growing transportation needs.”

“The backlog of needed repairs to America’s bridges is daunting. Until our current infrastructure is put in stable condition, the federal government should reward states that make the smart choice to first maintain what we’ve already built,” said Al Biehler, president, Allen Biehler Consulting LLC, and former secretary of PennDOT. “And as a bonus to the economy, recent analysis has shown that repair work on roads and bridges generates 16 percent more jobs than new construction.”

Deferring maintenance of bridges and highways can cost three times as much as making the preventative repairs that ward off serious deterioration. The backlog also increases safety risks, hinders economic prosperity and significantly burdens taxpayers.

“Continuing to let our roads and bridges slide into a state of disrepair is no way to support an economy that depends on the safe and efficient movement of people and goods across the country,” said Andrew W. Herrmann, president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers and Advisory Council Chair for ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. “Just as transportation agencies must fix our bridges, Congress must fix our transportation programs to put a priority on repair and maintenance of our existing infrastructure.”

Most bridges in use today were designed to last roughly 50 years before reconstruction or replacement. Today, roughly a third of the nation’s 600,000 highway bridges are 50 years old or older. In order to prevent future catastrophes on our nation’s roads and bridges, Congress should:

  • Provide states with increased resources to repair and rebuild. States need federal support to back their efforts to prioritize repair and maintenance.
  • Ensure that funds sent to states for bridge repair are used only for that purpose.
  • Require that rehabilitated or rebuilt bridges are safe for everyone who uses them, whether they are in vehicles, on foot or bicycle, or using public transit.

The release of The Fix We’re In For: The State of our Nation’s Bridges is the first in a series of reports and web components as part of a new campaign launched today by Transportation for America. The report and its online maps can be found at T4america.org.

Listen to the national telebriefing audio recording here.

State Bridge Rankings

StateRankPercent deficient
Pennsylvania126.50%
Oklahoma222.00%
Iowa321.70%
Rhode Island421.60%
South Dakota520.30%
Nebraska618.20%
Missouri717.00%
West Virginia816.70%
North Dakota916.10%
Mississippi1015.50%
New Hampshire1115.40%
Maine1215.40%
Michigan1313.10%
North Carolina1413.00%
South Carolina1513.00%
Wyoming1612.90%
Louisiana1712.90%
California1812.80%
Hawaii1912.40%
District of Columbia2012.30%
Alaska2112.20%
Vermont2212.00%
New York2312.00%
Kansas2411.10%
Massachusetts2511.00%
Indiana2610.60%
New Jersey2710.30%
Alabama289.90%
Ohio299.80%
Kentucky309.50%
Virginia319.40%
Connecticut329.20%
Idaho339.00%
Minnesota348.80%
Illinois358.50%
New Mexico368.50%
Wisconsin378.20%
Montana387.60%
Arkansas397.40%
Maryland406.90%
Colorado416.80%
Georgia426.40%
Oregon436.30%
Tennessee446.20%
Delaware455.80%
Washington465.10%
Utah474.50%
Arizona483.00%
Texas493.00%
Florida502.40%
Nevada512.20%
US Total11.50%

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Aging Bridges Present Challenges

  2. Chris Gray

    6 years ago

    u forget several critical damning factors:the stupid state which is criminally negligent in regards to its atrocious infrastructure.case in point the unbuilt unbuilt rye oyster bay bridge in 1971 which remains as probably the most anti econ. blasphemous counterproductive job killing treacherous cowardly shameful pusillaminous misfeasance of any state government in the last 3000 years of this planets socioecon. hist.!!!ny being an oligarical state was able to kill this brillant project of that master builder and visionary robert moses because those wealthy super rich bridgehead communites were able to fund the scumbag lawers and convince albany to stop the construction which by the way cost this corrupt state over 40000 permanent secure well paying transgenerational jobs!!and yes even the judas iscariot gov. of conn. abe ribbacoff  was able to create a fake environmental wetlands issue to contribute to the demise of a bridge which i believe would have had the same explosive impact on the backward state of ny as the brooklyn bridge did approx. 100 years before!by the way if the same ridiculous arguments had been applied to that famous bridge it would never have been built but then again the victorians were abit more practical and pragmatic and they went right ahead and built this world famous engineering marvel which to this very day continues to define the wicked city and serve as an icon of nyc even as the statue of liberty so effectively  does!!ny and albany have blood stained hands for this crime of the gross negligence and dereliction of duty damning a whole generation of motorists to the most blood bespattered congested inefficent overcrowed  blasphemous interstate in north am. 1 95 bronx to n.h. conn. !!!interesting that the noxious ny times also sided with ribbacoff and the benighted bourgeois in rye oyster bay but then again this same putrid newspaper also proclaimed uncle joe stalin as a great agrarian reformer in the late 1930s!!don,t look to the slimmy media to spotlight the crisis of surface trans. either nbc would rather to a spread on what the latest hi milage washed up hollywood harlot is wearing this weekend!!thanfully i bolted this blasphemous losers paradise in 1993 hallelujah! where i live on the west coast of fla. i can drive to a world class beach at 75mph any day of the week and i could really do 80 mph but my trusty toyota is 20 years old and has 166000 miles on the speedo. so i don,t want to push my luck!!!!