As bridges across the United States fall into increasingly dangerous conditions, this year’s report from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) estimates that it will take 80 years — or more — to repair them.
For individuals all across the United States, these bridges are a key part of workplace, school, or family commutes. However, the increasing deterioration of so many of the nation’s bridges — when contrasted against the slowing rate of repair — means that bridge closures and weight limits are likely to become more common in coming years, according to CNN. The ARTBA report found that of the 616,087 bridges in the United States, at least 47,052 of them are “structurally deficient,” meaning that they require urgent repairs. It is believed that these bridges are crossed by drivers at least 178 million times a day, most of whom are likely unaware of the poor conditions. Meanwhile, a full 38 percent of bridges were identified as having some level of repairs needed, including one in three interstate highway bridges.
Last year, the association predicted that current repair rates would mean taking 37 years in order to fix the country’s bridges. Since then, the speed of repairs has sunk to its slowest rate in five years. As a result, in 2019, this time estimate has more than doubled.
According to Forbes, if all of the crumbling bridges in the United States were placed end to end, their length would stretch from Houston to Chicago. Repairing this damage is estimated to cost an estimate $171 billion. Despite President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to supposedly increase spending on highway and infrastructure repairs, little progress has been made.
Bridge collapses, unthinkable as they might seem, have occurred all over the United States. On Tuesday, The Charlotte Observer reported that a portion of Interstate 75 had come down near Chattanooga, Tennessee, injuring a driver on the exit ramp underneath. Back in 2007, an I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis — during rush hour — sending dozens of cars into the water. NPR reports that this collapse killed 13 people and left 145 with brain injuries, back injuries, and psychological trauma.
Currently, the state with the biggest bridge crisis is Iowa, which not only has the highest number of compromised bridges, but also the third most structurally deficient bridges in the country. Some of the other states with major bridge problems are Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, South Dakota, North Carolina, Illinois, and Missouri. If this problem is not dealt with on a massive level, before 80 years have passed, headlines regarding bridge collapses — and resulting fatalities — will likely become more common.