By John Schneidawind, vice president of public affairs, ARTBA
The temporary closure of famed Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago this week is just one of at least six “infrastructure incidents” across the nation since Jan. 1, according to ARTBA research.
Chunks of concrete dropped from a highway overpass outside Boston on Feb. 7. More concrete fell from the Richmond-San Raphael Bridge in northern California and a railroad bridge in Nashville, Tennessee.
A bridge in Henderson County, Texas, was closed over safety concerns and a truck over the posted weight limit caused a local bridge to collapse in Yell County, Arkansas. These incidents are in addition to bridges that upon inspection have either been closed or are currently undergoing emergency repairs in Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, South Carolina and Virginia.
The Mississippi Transportation Commission announced emergency funding in January to repair or replace 200 bridges that are closed or have posted weight restrictions.
So far this year, no one has been reported killed or suffered major injuries associated with these situations.
The events come as the backdrop to Senate and House committee hearings on the nation’s infrastructure needs and funding options.
“One in three bridges across the country is in need of replacement, repair or major structural work,” said ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Black. “This includes bridges on our Interstate Highway System, which carries over 75 percent of major truck freight shipments, as well as local bridges that are important to smaller communities.”
According ARTBA’s analysis of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2017 National Bridge Inventory database, more than 54,000 of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient, which means that one of the key structural elements is rated in poor or worse condition.
In a late January Rasmussen Reports survey commissioned by ARTBA and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), almost 90 percent of respondents said the Democratic leadership and President Donald Trump should work together to pass 2019 legislation to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. Federal investment accounts for, on average, more than 50 percent of annual highway and bridge capital investments made by the states.
ARTBA believes passage of legislation providing a permanent revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund is a good place to begin the repair work.