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TRIP: America’s Bridges Are Deficient

According to the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory (December 2012), a total of 25 percent of the nation’s bridges (20 ft. or longer) are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Eleven percent of America’s bridges are structurally deficient, meaning there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components.

Bridges that are structurally deficient may be posted for lower weight limits or closed if their condition warrants such action. An additional 14 percent of the nation’s bridges are functionally obsolete. Functionally obsolete bridges no longer meet current highway design standards, often due to narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment with the approaching roadway. Structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges are safe for travel and are maintained and monitored on a regular basis by the agencies responsible for their upkeep.

Pennsylvania leads the nation in the share of structurally deficient bridges with 24 percent. Oklahoma (23 percent), Iowa (21 percent), Rhode Island (21 percent) and South Dakota (21 percent) round out the top five states with the highest share of structurally deficient bridges.

Many of America’s bridges have aged beyond their initial service life and continue to deteriorate. Additional funding will be required to improve bridge conditions across the nation. The U.S. currently spends approximately $14 billion annually in maintaining its more than 600,000 bridges.

But based on the findings of a 2010 USDOT report to Congress, the nation should be spending approximately 60 percent more annually – $22 billion – to achieve significant improvements in the state of the nation’s bridges. At current levels of spending, TRIP estimates the United States will fall approximately $166 billion short in needed highway repairs over the next 20 years.

“Improving bridge conditions – and the overall condition of the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure – will require a significant increase in transportation investment at the federal and state levels of government. The current federal surface transportation program (MAP-21) expires Sept. 30, 2014. Congress has the opportunity with this legislation to increase the investment in our nation’s bridges,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP.