An analysis of the 2014 U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) National Bridge Inventory database found that there are more than 2,000 fewer structurally deficient bridges than there were in 2013. The good news stops there. There are still more than 61,000 structurally deficient bridges in need of significant repair.
According to American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, the issue could get a lot worse soon she warns. The federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) pays for 52% of highway and bridge capital investments annually made by state governments. The HTF has suffered five revenue shortfalls between 2008 and 2014 and the latest funding extension expires May 31 if Congress does not take action.
The ARTBA analysis of bridge data supplied by the states to the U.S. DOT found that 250 of the most heavily crossed structurally deficient bridges are on urban interstate highways, particularly in California. Nearly 87 percent of these bridges were built before 1970.
Bridge decks and support structures are regularly inspected by the state transportation departments for deterioration and are rated on a scale of zero to nine—nine being “excellent” condition. A bridge is classified as structurally deficient and in need of repair if its overall rating is four or below.
While bridges that received a rating above four may not pose an immediate risk to passengers and drivers, ARTBA urges that signs should be posted so that the public understands that repairs need to be made to the bridge.
The top five states with the highest number of structurally deficient bridges are Pennsylvania (5,050), Iowa (5,022), Oklahoma (4,216), Missouri (3,310) and Nebraska (2,654).
ARTBA provides state specific information from the analysis.