By Eileen Houlihan, senior writer/editor, ARTBA
The length of America’s structurally deficient bridges if placed end-to-end would span nearly 1,100 miles, the distance between Chicago and Houston, a new examination of federal government data shows. And it’s a problem that hits close to home.
ARTBA’s analysis of the recently-released U.S. Department of Transportation 2018 National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database reveals 47,052 bridges are classified as structurally deficient and in poor condition. Cars, trucks and school buses cross these compromised structures 178 million times every day, the data show. Nearly 1,775 are on the Interstate Highway System.
Although the number of structurally deficient bridges is down slightly compared to 2017, the pace of improvement has slowed to the lowest point since ARTBA began compiling this report five years ago.
“Sadly, this report is no April Fool’s joke. At current pace, it would take more than 80 years to replace or repair the nation’s structurally deficient bridges. That’s longer than the average life expectancy of a person living in the U.S.,” says ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, who conducted the analysis. “America’s bridge network is outdated, underfunded and in urgent need of modernization. State and local government just haven’t been given the necessary resources to get the job done.”
The report comes amid ongoing discussions in Washington, D.C. about how to address the nation’s transportation infrastructure challenges. “The best way to ‘bridge’ the infrastructure investment gap is for Congress and Trump administration to provide a permanent revenue solution for the federal Highway Trust Fund,” ARTBA President Dave Bauer says.
The Highway Trust Fund (HTF), is the source, on average, of more than 50 percent of highway and bridge capital investments made annually by state transportation departments. The HTF is facing major financial difficulties. Absent congressional action, states could see a 40 percent cut in federal investment beginning in 2021.
“Since the 2016 election, leaders on both sides of the aisle have regularly cited upgrading the America’s infrastructure as an area for common ground,” Bauer adds. “This report makes clear that it’s about time Congress and the Trump administration stop talking and start solving national problems.”
Including structurally deficient bridges, there are nearly 235,000 bridges—or about 38 percent—in need of some sort of structural repair, rehabilitation or replacement, according to ARTBA’s analysis of the NBI data. The association estimates the cost to make the identified repairs is nearly $171 billion.
Visit the bridge report website.