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Tragic bridge collapse in Washington highlights urgent problem of aging and deficient US bridges

For Immediate Release
Contact: Stephen Davis
202-955-5543 x242

or David Goldberg

Transportation for America issued the following statement following last night’s collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River near Mount Vernon, Washington.

“The shocking collapse of a busy Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington State highlights the issue of our country’s aging bridges and what we’re doing to address them. Thankfully, no one was killed or even seriously injured in this collapse, which could not be said about the last high profile bridge collapse in Minnesota.

Nationwide, more than one in ten bridges is rated structurally deficient, in need of close monitoring, urgent repairs, rehabilitation or replacement. We take more than 260 million trips over deficient bridges each day. In just our 102 largest metro areas alone, there are more deficient bridges than there are McDonald’s restaurants in the entire country, 18,000 versus 14,000.

While this particular bridge was not considered structurally deficient at the time of its collapse, it is one of thousands that are well past their intended lifespan and carrying far more traffic than intended at the time they were built. The typical bridge is 43 years old with a design life of 50 years.

Considering that progress on repairing deficient bridges has slowed in the last ten years, Congress took a major gamble in last summer’s new transportation law (MAP-21) by eliminating dedicated funding for repairing highway bridges. Now bridge repair is forced to compete with other transportation needs for funding.

At the same time, our chief source of repair dollars – the federal gas tax – is declining as Americans drive more fuel-efficient cars and fewer miles. Congress urgently needs to address both our funding priorities and how we will pay for them in the face of an aging system and growing population, before the next preventable bridge collapse strands commuters, cripples a local economy and claims lives.”

1 Comment

  1. Opus the Poet

    11 years ago

    You failed to mention that one of the biggest reasons gas tax revenues are falling in both real dollars and buying power is the tax was last raised in the Clinton administration and not during the second term either. Gas was about $1/gal then, with asphalt being a cheap waste product left over after refining crude into gasoline. Now gas is bouncing back and forth over the $4/gal level, and we are about to import asphalt from Canada to refine into gasoline instead of using it to pave roads.