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Which states have the worst bridges?

By |  April 22, 2020
Photo: Art Wager/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

A staggering 37 percent of all U.S. bridges need at least major repair work, according to an ARTBA analysis. Photo: Art Wager/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Two-hundred thirty-one thousand.

It’s a staggering figure, considering it’s the one that represents the number of U.S. bridges in need of major repair work or replacement. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), which pored over new information from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), recently put the 231,000 figure out there. Specifically, ARTBA analyzed DOT’s 2019 National Bridge Inventory database, which shows that 37 percent of all U.S. bridges are in need of major repair work or replacement.

Structurally deficient by state

Based on the ARTBA analysis, states with the most structurally deficient bridges as a percentage of their total bridge inventory are Rhode Island (22.3 percent), West Virginia (21 percent), Iowa (19 percent), South Dakota (17 percent), Pennsylvania (15.3 percent), Louisiana (13.2 percent), Maine (12.8 percent), Puerto Rico (12.3 percent), Michigan (10.8 percent) and North Dakota (10.7 percent).

States with the largest actual number of structurally deficient bridges are Iowa (4,575 bridges), Pennsylvania (3,501), Illinois (2,407), Oklahoma (2,352), Missouri (2,147), California (1,797), New York (1,745), North Carolina (1,714), Louisiana (1,701) and West Virginia (1,531).

While these bridges may not be imminently unsafe, ARTBA says they need attention.

Additionally, more than 69,500 bridges across the U.S. are “posted for load,” which means there are weight restrictions or other measures in place to reduce stress on the structure.

Over the last five years, ARTBA says Pennsylvania has reduced the number of its structurally deficient bridges by 1,200. Other states with large decreases are Oklahoma (753), Indiana (467), Ohio (412) and Virginia (391).

In 12 states, the number of structurally deficient bridges actually increased over the last five years, ARTBA adds. These are West Virginia (with an increase of 472), Illinois (260), Florida (131), Missouri (80) and Montana (77).

Notable structurally deficient bridges across the U.S. are New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge, Washington’s Theodore Roosevelt bridge, the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge crossing San Francisco Bay, Florida’s Pensacola Bay Bridge and the Vicksburg Bridge in Mississippi.

Putting a cost to it all

To address the 231,000 bridges that must be repaired, ARTBA estimates the cost at nearly $164 billion. The association bases that figure on average cost data published by the Federal Highway Administration.

“At the current pace, it would take more than 50 years to repair America’s structurally deficient bridges,” says Alison Premo Black, the chief economist at ARTBA. “Our bridge network is underfunded and should be modernized. State and local government just haven’t been given the necessary financial resources to fully address the problem.”

If placed end to end, ARTBA says the length of the nearly 231,000 bridges would stretch more than 6,300 miles. That’s long enough to make a roundtrip across the country, from New York City to Los Angeles and back again to Chicago.

American drivers cross these bridges 1.5 billion times per day, ARTBA adds. That figure represents one-third of all daily bridge crossings, according to the data the association analyzed.

The latest information from DOT comes as Congress and the Trump administration continue working on measures to respond to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. According to ARTBA, robust transportation infrastructure investments can offer comprehensive benefits once policymakers shift from their rescue focus to economic recovery.

“Economic recovery from coronavirus begins with strategic road and bridge improvements,” says Dave Bauer, ARTBA president. “Increased transportation investments support direct job creation and retention, while putting in place capital assets that will enhance U.S. productivity for decades to come.”

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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