The Fix We’re In For: The State of Our Bridges
The Nation’s Busiest Bridges
|Click to download the full version of this report, with data for all 102 metropolitan areas over 500,000 people.|
Pounded by heavy traffic day in and day out, the bridges in our metropolitan areas are indispensable links in the transportation system that takes millions of people to work and goods to market every day. And they threaten to become weak links, as they age and deteriorate in an era when public investment in infrastructure is shrinking in relative terms.
The impact of a failure to attend to our bridges became all too clear in September, 2011, when the governors of Kentucky and Indiana were forced to close the busy Sherman Minton Bridge in metropolitan Louisville after inspectors found cracks in its structural beams. The closure made national headlines as Louisville traffic was snarled and millions of Americans wondered about the condition of the busy bridges they have to cross each day.
With the majority of American bridges soon due for major maintenance, overhaul or replacement, scenarios such as this could begin playing out with increasing frequency absent concerted effort and investment.
The largest 102 metropolitan areas
Transportation for America conducted an analysis of the National Bridge Inventory, a database produced by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and found one in nine U.S. bridges has been rated “structurally deficient.” This means that the bridge is in need of more frequent monitoring and critical, near-term maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement.
Structurally deficient bridges in metropolitan areas carry a disproportionate share of all trips taken on a deficient bridge each day. In fact, deficient bridges in the largest 102 metropolitan areas carry three-quarters of all traffic crossing a deficient bridge.
Put another way, there are more deficient bridges in these 102 regions than there are McDonald’s restaurants in the entire country – 18,239 versus about 14,000. Worldwide, McDonald’s serves a staggering 64 million people a day. But here in America, 210 million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges in just these 102 regions.
Pennsylvania leads all other states in the nation with six metropolitan areas with a high percentage of deficient bridges. Pittsburgh leads the way with 30 percent of area bridges rated deficient — higher even than the state average of 26.5 percent. It is important to note that these numbers would be worse without the intensive bridge repair program implemented by Pennsylvania in the last several years, including a quadrupling of state funding for bridge repairs.
California leads the nation with the busiest deficient bridges. In Los Angeles, for example, 396 cars drive across a structurally deficient bridge every second of each day, on average. When ranking metros by the sheer volume of traffic on deficient bridges, California regions take several of the top spots, with the daily volume in Los Angeles at number one, more than double that of second place New York.
The Fix We're In For national report includes a summary of the problem, recommendations that could help reduce the alarming repair backlog, and the full battery of data, including the worst 100 counties and the two busiest structurally deficient bridges in each state.
This new report and its rankings look at the problem from a metropolitan perspective. Bridges in metro areas carry a disproportionate share of all trips on deficient bridges — the largest 102 metro areas carry 75 percent of all traffic crossing a deficient bridge each day.
The State of Our Nation's Bridges
Despite billions of dollars in federal, state and local funds directed toward the maintenance of existing bridges, 68,842 bridges — 11.5 percent of total highway bridges in the U.S. — are classified as "structurally deficient," requiring significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement.
Two key problems persist: while Congress has repeatedly declared bridge safety a national priority, existing federal programs don't ensure that aging bridges actually get fixed; and the current level of investment is nowhere near what is needed to keep up with our rapidly growing backlog of aging bridges.
Learn More About Our Bridge Backlog
Did you know that states can transfer up to half of their federal money dedicated to bridge repair to other projects, no questions asked? Learn more about our bridges — and what we can do to start fixing them.
Tell Congress: Fix It!
America's transportation system is broken. Bridges are crumbling, commute times are longer than ever, and too few people have access to good options. It's past time to fix it.
Add your name to the growing list of Americans calling on Congress to fix it for America and give us safe, affordable and timely transportation options that we need