One in ten U.S. bridges in urgent need of repair: report

WASHINGTON Thu Apr 24, 2014 4:36pm EDT

Cars are seen in the water as a span of highway bridge sits in the Skagit River May 24, 2013 after collapsing near the town of Mt Vernon, Washington late Thursday. REUTERS/Cliff DesPeaux

Cars are seen in the water as a span of highway bridge sits in the Skagit River May 24, 2013 after collapsing near the town of Mt Vernon, Washington late Thursday.

Credit: Reuters/Cliff DesPeaux

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 63,000 bridges across the United States are in urgent need of repair, with most of the aging, structurally compromised structures part of the interstate highway system, an analysis of recent federal data has found.

The report, released on Thursday by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, warned that the dangerous bridges are used some 250 million times a day by trucks, school buses, passenger cars and other vehicles.

The group, which represents the U.S. transportation construction market, analyzed recent U.S. Department of Transportation data for its study.

Pennsylvania led the list of structurally deficient bridges, with 5,218, followed by Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri and California.

Nevada, Delaware, Utah, Alaska and Hawaii had the least.

Overall, there are more than 607,000 bridges in the United States, according to the DOT's Federal Highway Administration, and most are more than 40 years old.

The Transportation Department routinely inspects bridges and rates them on a scale of zero to nine. Bridges receiving a grade of four or below are considered structurally deficient, and now account for more than 10 percent of all bridges.

States rely heavily on federal funds to pay for road and bridge projects but could face funding shortfalls by late August as the federal Highway Trust Fund draws closer to insolvency without congressional action.

The fund, bankrolled by an 18.4 cents-a-gallon tax on gasoline and 24.4 cents-a-gallon tax on diesel, 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," said Alison Premo Black, chief economist at ARTBA.

A temporary measure that provided funding for road and bridge projects for two years is set to expire in September, and the transportation industry has urged Congress to act quickly to keep the funds flowing.

"The bridge problem sits squarely on the backs of our elected officials," Black said. "The state transportation departments can't just wave a magic wand and make the problem go away."

The American Society of Civil Engineers, which separately produces a report card on U.S. infrastructure every four years, gave it an overall "D," or poor, grade. Bridges received a "C+" grade for mediocre.

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 ACSE has said.

The civil engineers' group estimates that the U.S. will need to invest $3.6 trillion by 2020 to keep its transportation infrastructure in a good state of repair.

(Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; editing by Ros Krasny and Phil Berlowitz)

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Comments (19)
morbas wrote:
Function of government is in providing infrastructure for the people.
We should not waiver to provide infrastructure to advance economic recovery and employment to that end.
Deficit is an imbalance between revenue and expenditure(s). Expenditure(s) are defined by community infrastructure. Detroit is joined by other municipality revenue indebtedness from required community infrastructure expenditures. The solution has been demonstrated, increase revenue dependency on progressive taxation; the tax act of 1913 embodies that principle. Use a progressive tax rate on the summation of all income. So instead of a gregarious retroactive taxation on past earned entitlements, given a national level of Central Bank causality, just perhaps the solution is a Nationalized Income taxation dispersed by 1/3rds between Federal, State, and Local governments.
Always an opportune time for Space Maglev/Rail-gun minimized cost and environmental impact for LEO space access. If congress will open up infrastructure projects enable USA economics. Reduce/eliminate shipping low grade oil pollution with a North/Central/South America Rail infrastructure to include a Trans-Bearing Strait route. Make Truck/rail/freeway portals at strategic intersections, reducing interstate fuel consumption by promoting local electric transport. Promoting Maglev transit industrial base. A Maglev launch path from SF to Denver would mostly be underground emerging out of rocky mountain high altitudes would minimize environmental concerns with reliable low launch G loads. We would emerge as the worlds space faring gateway.
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“If not now when? If not us who?” JFK
This is the America I dream of,
morbas(i)

Apr 24, 2014 1:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Oh no! We can’t fix our roads and bridges, as that requires taxes! And the more prosperous among us refuse to pay those taxes! (I hope my sarcasm doesn’t escape anyone.)

Well, wealthy folks, too bad you can’t build your own private road infrastructure, so, more taxes it must be, and not just a gas tax on everyone.

Interestingly, one reason the gas-tax coffers are being depleted is because of more fuel efficient cars, gas-electric hybrids, millenials opting out of the automobile culture, etc.

Since we spend more on our U.S. military defense budget than the next ten industrially advanced countries combined spend on theirs, I think it’s high-time to take a good chunk of that roughly $700 Billion a year, say about $200 Billion, and use those redirected funds for a massive, national revamp of our transportation infrastructure.

And not just for the darn cars. We need an interstate rapid rail network connecting all of our 147 major cities as well as innumerable mid-sized cities. Connect the interstate terminals in the major cities with light-rapid rail lines servicing more local and regional areas.

This would create millions of jobs, from architects to engineers, artist and restaurateurs, to the guy who shovels asphalt for a decent $15+ bucks an hour.

This would bring the U.S. completely out of the Great Recession that the media falsely claims (all the time) that ended in 2009. It would be tax money well-spent, for a change.

Apr 24, 2014 1:41pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SunnyDaySam wrote:
When WE elected President Obama the first time, he campaigned on rebuilding our infrastructure. It was a good idea and a way to create lots of JOBS. The Republicans, to this former Independent’s complete dismay, blocked EVERY single initiative. They refused to compromise even on simple things. Instead, the GOP went full-tilt defending their supporters: Big Corporations and the 1%. btw; if you disagree, please let me know what the GOP did for Average Americans at all. The Party of Nothing has Nothing. btw; that bridge in the photo? I’ve been over that at least a thousand times. Yeah, we know what happens when the Republicans don’t do anything.

Apr 24, 2014 4:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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