U.S. Bridges Structurally Deficient: 10 Percent Of Bridges In United States Are Considered Structurally Deficient

The United States has 609,539 bridges in the country. A new study conducted by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association has found that 10 percent, or 58,495, of those bridges need to be fixed. The study also stated that all types of vehicles cross these structurally deficient bridges 200 million times a day. Alison Black, ARTBA’s chief economist, states that this is a huge problem that needs to be addressed.

“I think it is something to still be concerned about, just because of the sheer number of bridges classified as structurally deficient. It’s just such a big problem.”

Iowa, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Nebraska are the states with the most bridges that are structurally deficient. These five states have a total of 19,280 bridges that need attention. The total number of these bridges for each state is listed below.

  • Iowa – 5,025
  • Pennsylvania – 4,783
  • Oklahoma – 3,776
  • Missouri – 3,222
  • Nebraska – 2,474

An in-depth list of structurally deficient bridges in each state can be found here.

When a bridge is declared to be structurally deficient, it does not mean that there is imminent danger of the bridge collapsing. But it does mean that these bridges are in more need of repair than others. A rating system is used in order to triage the bridges in most need of repair. The rating system uses zero to nine scale. A bridge rated nine is considered to be in perfect condition. Any bridge with a rating of four or less is categorized as structurally deficient.

The biggest problem with these bridges is that maintaining older bridges takes more work and money than newer bridges. In December, Congress approved a spending bill that included $305 billion for bridge repairs. This money is allotted over five years. The federal government provides half of the funding needed for transportation repairs. Each state is required to put up the other half of the money. Sixteen states are increasing the tax on gas in order to use that money towards the needed repairs. Nine others are considering doing the same to get the funding they need.

“Congress basically put a Band-aid on it. It’s going to take major new investments by all levels of government to move toward eliminating the huge backlog of bridge work in the United States.”

Carl Davis, research director at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, states that increasing the gas tax in various states will not create enough money fast enough for them to repair their bridges. At this rate, it would take two decades to repair all the bridges that need to be fixed.

“Most of the gas tax increases under discussion right now would help restore at least some of the purchasing power they lost while being frozen in time for as long as 20 years or more,” said Carl Davis, research director at the institute.

One of the largest bridge failures occurred in 2007. The I-35W bridge that spans the Mississippi River had a catastrophic failure where 13 people lost their lives and 145 were injured. The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board discovered that a flaw in the design of the I-35W bridge was the reason for the failure.

Every state in the United States has bridges that have a rating of four or lower. Finding the money to make the bridges safer is becoming a top priority in order to ensure the safety of the people who drive across bridges every day.

How do you feel driving across bridges that are in need of repair?

[Image Via AP Photo/Janet Hostetter]