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One in Ten US Bridges Need “Urgent” Repairs

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More than 63,000 US bridges, one in ten nationally, is in need of urgent repair, said a study released by the American Road and Transportation Association, citing government data.

The US Transportation Department routinely inspects then rates bridges on a scale of one to ten, with a score of four or below considered structurally deficient. These dangerous bridges are traveled over by 250 million trucks, school buses, passenger cars each day.

Worst and best states for bridges

The worst bridges in the nation were found in Pennsylvania, with 5,218 structurally deficient bridges.  Close on their heels with the most deficient bridges was Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri and California.  The fewest deficient bridges were found in Nevada, Delaware, Utah, Alaska and Hawaii had the least.

Of the more than 607,000 bridges in the United States, the majority are over 40 years old, according to the DOT’s Federal Highway Administration.

“The bridge problem sits squarely on the backs of our elected officials,” Alison Premo Black, chief economist at American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the study sponsor, was quoted in a report as saying.  “The state transportation departments can’t just wave a magic wand and make the problem go away.”

National highway fund going bankrupt

Fixing roads and bridges has traditionally relied heavily on federal funds to pay for projects.  The US government allocation  for the projects, the Highway Trust Fund, could draw closer to insolvency this August without congressional action.  The fund draws its support from an 18.4 cents-a-gallon tax on gasoline and 24.4 cents-a-gallon tax on diesel fuel.  But it is expected to run out of money by 2015 as fuel use in America stagnates.

“Letting the Highway Trust Fund go insolvent would have a devastating impact on bridge repairs,” Black said in the report. A temporary funding measure to bankroll road and bridge projects for two years is on track to expire in September.  The transportation industry, represented by the authors of this report, has urged Congress to act quickly to keep the funds flowing into their member construction companies.

A group representing engineers who work on bridges, The American Society of Civil Engineers, separately produces a report card on U.S. infrastructure every four years.  It gave the overall infrastructure a “D,” or poor, grade. Bridges fared slightly better, receiving a “C+” grade for mediocre.  The ACSE projected that the U.S. needs to invest $20.5 billion annually to clear the bridge repair backlog, up from the current $12.8 billion spent annually.  The group estimates $3.6 trillion need to be invested by 2020 to keep its transportation infrastructure in a good state of repair.

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