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Nearly 56,000 Bridges Still Structurally Deficient, New Analysis Finds

The Champ Clark Bridge which connects Louisiana, Mo. with Pike County, Ill. over the Mississippi River, is nearly 90 years old and is considered structurally deficient. (Photo: MoDOT) 

There’s good and bad news to report about the condition of America’s bridges. The good news is there were 2,790 fewer structurally deficient bridges in 2016 compared to 2015. The bad news is there are still 55,710 on the structurally deficient list. About 1,900 are on the Interstate Highway System, and state transportation departments have identified 13,000 Interstate bridges that need replacement, widening or major reconstruction. These are among the key findings in the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) recently-released 2017 Bridge Report, which analyzes the 2016 National Bridge Inventory from the Federal Highway Administration.

The inventory of structurally deficient bridges has declined 0.5% since the 2015 report. At that pace, it would take more than two decades to replace or repair all of them, according to ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, who conducted the analysis. Black says the data shows 28% of bridges (173,919) are over 50 years old and have never had any major reconstruction work in that time.

“America’s highway network is woefully underperforming. It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization,” Black said. “State and local transportation departments haven’t been provided the resources to keep pace with the nation’s bridge needs.”

To help ensure public safety, bridge decks and support structures are regularly inspected for deterioration and remedial action. They are rated on a scale of zero to nine, with nine meaning the bridge is in “excellent” condition. A bridge is classified as structurally deficient and in need of repair if its overall rating is four or below.

While these bridges may not be imminently unsafe, they are in need of attention.

State and congressional district-specific information from the analysis--including rankings and the locations of the 250 most heavily travelled structurally deficient bridges in the nation and top 25 most heavily traveled in each state--is available at www.artbabridgereport.org.


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