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AutoBlog: REPORT: More than 25% of US bridges are "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete"

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Filed under: Safety

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Here's some bad news for all of us: Over 150,000 bridges in the U.S. have been judged to be "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete." And get this, there are less than 598,000 bridges in America. That means 25.7% aren't in very good shape. It turns out that the state with the most structurally deficient or functionally obsolete (SD/FO) bridges is Texas, with 9,564 such bridges. However, Texas is ginormous - almost half the size of Alaska - and therefore has a lot of bridges, but the percentage of Texan SD/FO bridges is 19%. And that's significantly lower than the national average.

What state has the most SD/FO bridges? Betcha never would have guessed the District of Columbia. For one thing, it's not even a state! For another, you'd think being in such close proximity to all that Washingtonian largesse would be good for something. Turns out, not. Anyhow, 55% of the bridges in our nation's capital are going to fall down/fail sooner than later says The Better Roads Bridge Inventory survey.

The actual State with the highest percentage of bad bridges is Rhode Island with 53%. Pennsylvania takes second place honors with 39%. The really bad news, according to the frighteningly detailed article, is that all these numbers might be low.

[source: Better Roads via The Car Connection | Image: Scott Olson/Getty]

REPORT: More than 25% of US bridges are "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete" originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 11 Nov 2009 10:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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This doesn't really surprise me, there is an overpass in Laramie that connects downtown to I-80 and West Laramie, that was legally 'condemned' about 5 years ago, but the city still hasn't closed/repaired/replaced it. There is tons of traffic (by Wyoming standards) on it every day...disaster waiting to happen.

Edited by PONTIAC06
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was an awesome show on the history channel a while back called The Crumbling of America. the amount of roads bridges and waterways in such a dis-repaired state is alarming...

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Frankly I view these accounts with some degree of scepticism.

Texas alone has almost 10,000 bridges 'ready to collapse' ??

I would have to believe we'd hear of collapses on at least a monthly basis, if not more frequently. I certainly recall the one in MN, and...... ?

I know these engineering reports are based on severely overly-cautious standards. Not that I'm against that, not at all, but the idea that they are all going to implode in the next few weeks smacks of typical journalistic melodrama, IMO.

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This comes up every 5 years or so since 1990, from my observations. Our government has no interest in fixing bridges when they can take put the money in their own pockets.

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Ever since the MN bridge collapsed, there has been more money spent on fixing bridges. However, all the nation's infrastructure is aging. Many of the interstates were built back in the 60s and 70s, and some bridges are reaching the end of their life.

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Our infrastructure is so out of date it isn't funny. MA and NH have gone into emergency repair mode with many bridges in the area. In my city they started work on the heavily used bridge on 28 before they've finished refurbishing the one on 114, making traffic a nightmare. However I was in grade school and the 28 bridge was in terrible shape, right down to the supports which were crumbling into the water.

In Lowell they had 3 of the 4 main bridges closed at one point for repairs. The one closest to the university was closed last year for emergency repairs so it lasts long enough for them to build a new bridge. They've started work refurbishing the bridge which connects 110 with 38. Another bridge on 28 in Methuen, which crosses 213 is being refurbished. Couple years ago one of the bridges in Methuen which crosses a river collapsed. Took them nearly 2 years to rebuild.

In NH they've got 3 bridges in Lowell being refurbished or rebuilt, and they finished building a whole new bridge last year that goes over I93.

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There are a lot of structurally deficient bridges out there, but they don't mention that many of these bridges are in rural areas of the Midwest and rarely used anymore. Since much of the Midwest is laid out in a mile by mile grid of mainly gravel and dirt roads, there are hundreds of bridges in each county. Four of the top five states for total bridges are in the Midwest. Counties have no money to maintain them so when these little farm road bridges go bad, they just get closed and farmers are forced to take a county highway or some other road that is better maintained. There is a good chance that a large percentage of these deficient bridges are never used anyway.

That doesn't excuse the major bridges that have been neglected for decades and are on the verge of failure.

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You know, if the U.S. government wants to fix the economy and our bridges and roadways all at the same time, why not start a massive public works project to take care of it all? It's killing three birds with one stone, for god's sake. It should be a no-brainer.

I don't want to turn the thread political, but it's something that has to be said.

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Here's something else that's interesting: they lumped the "structurally deficient" (big deal) bridges in with the "functionally obsolete" (not a big deal) to come up with their 25%+ figure. This is sensationalist because "functionally obsolete" could simply mean that the bridge has 4 lanes, but the road capacity is such that 6 lanes would be ideal. It could also mean that the sidewalk widths are not up to current standards, or the lanes are a few inches narrower than today's preferred widths, or any other minor thing.

The real information is in what percentage are "structurally deficient," as those are the bridges in danger of endangering the public. Mustang84 is also correct that all those little box culverts in the rural Midwest add up quickly for some states, even though they may only get one or two vehicles per day.

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You know, if the U.S. government wants to fix the economy and our bridges and roadways all at the same time, why not start a massive public works project to take care of it all? It's killing three birds with one stone, for god's sake. It should be a no-brainer.

I don't want to turn the thread political, but it's something that has to be said.

This is correct. For every $1 spent on infrastructure, $10 are made in economic development. Look at how many Depression-era bridges are still going strong today. How many are cherished in their communities for their architectural values? It really is a no-brainer.

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Tending to infrastructure was supposed to be addressed with the TARP program (IIRC), yet figures I just heard said only 38% of the money had been spend to date, and 83% of that was in one-parties' districts (some of those were completely non-existant districts, too).

Not slandering or 'getting political', just quoting released stats and pointing out that even when specifically earmarked for a defined problem area, the Gov still screws it up on purpose and turns it's back on the problem.

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The ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) stimulus package put about $81 billion towards infrastructure improvements. These were supposed to be for shelf-ready products. In many cases they were projects that were on the shelf and waiting for funding, but some jurisdictions quickly prepared plans to do simple road construction projects. With some of the leftover TARP funds, additional infrastructure projects may be funded. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that more than $2 trillion is needed over the next five years to repair the nation's infrastructure, but less than half of that will be put towards the effort.

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Tending to infrastructure was supposed to be addressed with the TARP program (IIRC), yet figures I just heard said only 38% of the money had been spend to date, and 83% of that was in one-parties' districts (some of those were completely non-existant districts, too).

Not slandering or 'getting political', just quoting released stats and pointing out that even when specifically earmarked for a defined problem area, the Gov still screws it up on purpose and turns it's back on the problem.

Interesting. I wasn't aware TARP was used for infrastructure; I thought it's only for the banks.

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