Analysis of Federal Bridge Data Confirms ASCE Report Card Bridge Grade

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The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) released its Bridge Report based on the data in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 2017 National Bridge Inventory database. ARTBA’s Bridge Report confirms the “C+” grade given in ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. Both reports illustrate that while the overall number of bridges deemed structurally deficient is decreasing, a significant amount of work remains as many of the nation’s bridges are approaching the end of their design life.

Key ARTBA Bridge Report highlights include:

  • 54,259 out of the nation’s 612,677, or 8.8%, of our bridges are rated structurally deficient. In 2016, 56,007 out of the nation’s 614,387, or 9.1%, of our bridges were rated structurally deficient. The Infrastructure Report Card noted the trend that the number of structurally deficient bridges was decreasing steadily.
  • The nation’s 54,259 structurally deficient bridges are crossed 174 million times every day.
  • The average age of a structurally deficient bridge is 67 years and for a non-deficient bridge, the average age is 40 years, illuminating the point that many bridges are beyond their useful life.
  • 226,837, or one in three, of our nation’s bridges have identified repair needs.
  • 17,726, or one in three, interstate highway bridges have identified repair needs.
  • At least 15% of the bridges in six states—Rhode Island (23%), Iowa (21%), West Virginia (19%), South Dakota (19%), Pennsylvania (18%) and Nebraska (15 percent)—fall in the structurally deficient category. These states coincide with those pointed to in the Report Card.
  • States with the most structurally deficient bridges include Iowa (5,067), Pennsylvania (4,173), Oklahoma (3,234), Missouri (3,086), Illinois (2,303), Nebraska (2,258), Kansas (2,115), Mississippi (2,008), North Carolina (1,854), and New York (1,834). States/Federal District with the least structurally deficient bridges include the District of Columbia (8), Nevada (31), Delaware (39), Hawaii (66), and Utah (87).

The subpar condition of our bridges is a result of an inability to properly fund our current bridge needs, with the most recent estimate putting our nation’s backlog of bridge rehabilitation needs at $123 billion. ASCE recommends that to raise our bridge grade from a “C+”, we must:

  • Fix the federal Highway Trust Fund by raising the federal motor fuels tax by 25 cents. States must ensure their funding mechanisms (motor fuels taxes or other) are sufficient to fund needed investment in bridges.
  • Increase funding from all levels of government to continue reducing the number of structurally deficient bridges, decrease the maintenance backlog, and address the large number of bridges that have passed or are approaching the end of their design life.
  • Have bridge owners consider the costs across a bridge’s entire lifecycle to make smart design decisions and prioritize maintenance and rehabilitation
  • States should ensure their funding mechanisms (motor fuels taxes or other) are sufficient to fund needed investment in bridges.
  • States and the federal government should consider long-term funding solutions for transportation infrastructure and potential alternatives to the motor fuel taxes, including further study and piloting of mileage-based user fees.

As the Trump Administration and Congress continue to develop infrastructure investment legislation, we urge lawmakers to support our nation’s safety and economy through strong leadership in bridge investment.

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