Over 220,000 U.S. bridges in need of repair, analysis of federal data shows

March 25, 2021

ARTBA estimates it would take 40 years to repair the current backlog of structurally deficient bridges

Over 220,000 U.S. bridges need major repair work or should be replaced, according to an analysis of the U.S. DOT 2020 National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database. 

That figure represents 36%, or more than one-third, of all U.S. bridges.

The analysis of the NBI database was conducted by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). ARTBA finds that while the number of structurally deficient (SD) bridges declined 2.5% last year to 45,000, the number of bridges falling into fair condition grew more than 3,600 to almost 295,000. At the current pace, ARTBA says, it would take 40 years to repair the current backlog of SD bridges.

“The current 40-year timeline to repair bridges in poor condition is an unacceptable outcome for the American motoring public,” ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, who led the team conducting the analysis, said in a statement. “The bridge conditions report highlights key national infrastructure challenges and underscores the need for congressional action this year on a robust multiyear transportation investment bill.”

Of the 45,000 SD bridges, nearly 11,200 are in “serious” or worse condition. This includes 1,668 that are in “critical” condition, 440 that are in “imminent” failure, and 970 that are in “failed” condition and are out of service. The states with the most serious or worse bridge conditions are Iowa (1,762 bridges), Oklahoma (922), Illinois (764), Pennsylvania (728), Missouri (700), and Louisiana (638).

American drivers cross these SD structures more than 171 million times daily. The estimated cost to repair them is $41.8 billion, based on average cost data published by the U.S. DOT. Of the 220,000 bridges needing repair, state and local governments say that 79,500 bridges should be replaced totally, according to Black. Nearly one-third of Interstate highway bridges (17,643 spans) have identified repair needs.

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SOURCE: American Road & Transportation Builders Association