New Bridge Data Support Subpar 2017 Grade

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The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) has released its annual Bridge Report based on  the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 2019 National Bridge Inventory. 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:

  • More than one third (37 percent) of U.S. bridges—nearly 231,000 —need repair work. More than 46,000 bridges are rated in poor condition and classified as structurally deficient (SD). A total of 81,000 bridges should be replaced.
  • While the number of SD bridges declined by 900 compared to 2018, it still would take more than 50 years to repair them all.
  • Motorists drive cross these structurally deficient bridges 178 million times a day.
  • Structurally deficient bridges, on average, are nearly 69 years old, compared to 44 years old for non-deficient bridges.
  • One third of Interstate highway bridges (18,177) have identified repair needs.

The states with the most structurally deficient bridges, as a percent of their total bridge inventory, are Rhode Island (22.3%), West Virginia (21%), Iowa (19%), South Dakota (17%), Pennsylvania (15.3%), Louisiana (13.2%), Maine (12.8%), Puerto Rico (12.3%), Michigan (10.8%), and North Dakota (10.7%).

States with the largest number of structurally deficient bridges are Iowa (4,575 bridges), Pennsylvania (3,501), Illinois (2,407), Oklahoma (2,352), Missouri (2,147), California (1,797), New York (1,745), North Carolina (1,714), Louisiana (1,701), and West Virginia (1,531).

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 if we want 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 Congress continues to reinvest in the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic, ASCE’s government relations team remains actively engaged to ensure capital investments are part of future legislative packages. We urge you reach out to your Members of Congress and tell them to put forward a long-term plan to improve our infrastructure systems.

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