New Bridge Data Supports C+ Report Card 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) 2018 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:

  • 47,052 out of the nation’s 616,087, or 7.6%, bridges are rated “structurally deficient” and need urgent repairs. 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 47,052 structurally deficient bridges are crossed 178 million times a day.
  • The average age of a structurally deficient bridge is 62 years and for a non-deficient bridge, the average age is 40 years, illuminating the point that many bridges are beyond their useful life.
  • 235,020, or 38%, of our nation’s bridges have identified repair needs.
  • 18,842, or one in three, interstate highway bridges have identified repair needs.

The states with the most structurally deficient bridges, as a percent of their total bridge inventory, are Rhode Island (23%); West Virginia (19.8%); Iowa (19.3%); South Dakota (16.7%); Pennsylvania (16.5%); Maine (13.1%); Louisiana (13%); Puerto Rico (11.7%); Oklahoma (10.9%); and North Dakota (10.7%).

States with the largest number of structurally deficient bridges are Iowa (4,675 bridges); Pennsylvania (3,770); Oklahoma (2,540); Illinois (2,273); Missouri (2,116); North Carolina (1,871); California (1,812); New York (1,757); Louisiana (1,678); and Mississippi (1,603).

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 the legislative push continues on Capitol Hill, ASCE’s government relations team remains actively engaged. 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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