AASHTO Journal

ARTBA Study Finds Decades Worth of Bridge Repairs to Fix Deficient Structures

U.S. bridges that account for more than 1,200 highway miles are rated structurally deficient, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association said in a new report, with an average age of 67 years.

ARTBA Chief Economist Alison Premo Black said that at the current pace of repair or replacement it would take 37 years to remedy all of them.

Bridgehole.jpgBridges that are rated structurally deficient remain open to traffic if authorities consider them safe for travel, but need repair or replacement of at least some component such as the bridge deck surface.

ARTBA said that based on an analysis of the U.S. Department of Transportation's 2017 National Bridge Inventory database it found 54,259 of the nation's bridges were structurally deficient. "Cars, trucks and school buses cross these 54,259 compromised structures 175 million times every day, the data show," the association said.

That includes 1,800 bridges on the Interstate Highway System, ARTBA said, or one on average for every 27 miles of interstate.

Those numbers reflect both some improvement from ARTBA's 2017 report on bridge conditions and the scope of the remaining challenge to upgrade critical infrastructure.

For instance, ARBTA said the average age of non-deficient bridges is 40 years, making them on average 27 years newer than those rated structurally deficient.

"The pace of improving the nation's inventory of structurally deficient bridges slowed this past year," ARTBA said in its press release on the results. "It's down only two-tenths of a percent from the number reported in the government's 2016 data."

The association released its report Jan. 29, a day before President Trump was to report on the State of the Union in a speech before Congress and press lawmakers to pass a major infrastructure investment program this year.

"An infrastructure package aimed at modernizing the interstate system would have both short- and long-term positive effects on the U.S. economy," Black said. Traffic bottlenecks, she noted, cost the trucking industry alone over $60 billion a year in lost productivity and fuel, which "increases the cost of everything we make, buy or export."

The report includes lists of deficient bridges by state and congressional district, which spurs news agencies to report on local infrastructure as well as the national picture.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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