WASHINGTON — Data from a new government report show that if all the structurally deficient bridges in the United States were placed end-to-end, it would take you 25 hours driving 60 miles per hour to cross them.
An analysis of the 2013 National Bridge Inventory database released this month by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) shows cars, trucks and school buses cross Mississippi’s 2,274structurally compromised bridges 1,237,290 times every day.
The problem could get a lot worse, the chief economist for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says, as states across the nation face a slowdown in reimbursements for already approved federal-aid highway projects in August. Without congressional action, Dr. Alison Premo Black says there will be no Highway Trust Fund support for any new road, bridge, or public transportation projects in any state during FY 2015, which begins Oct. 1.
“Letting the Highway Trust Fund investment dry up would have a devastating impact on bridge repairs,” Black says, noting the trust fund supports an average $140.9 million annually in Mississippi bridge work. “It would set back bridge improvements for years.”
“The bridge problem sits squarely on the backs of our elected officials,” Black says. “The state transportation department can’t just wave a magic wand and make the problem go away. It takes committed investment by our legislators. Members of Congress need to come to grips with that. Some of our most heavily travelled bridges were built in the 1930s. Most are more than 40 years old.”
Bridge decks and support structures are regularly inspected by the state transportation departments for deterioration and are rated on a scale of zero to nine—nine being “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, ARTBA suggests they be sign posted so the public knows they have structural deficiencies that need repair.
The ARTBA analysis of the bridge data supplied by the states to the USDOT found:
- Mississippi ranks 10th nationally in its number of structurally deficient bridges—2,274.
- Mississippi ranks 14th in the percentage of its bridges that are classified as structurally deficient—13.0 percent.
A list of the 10 structurally deficient bridges in Mississippi that carry the most traffic daily is available in the “Economics” section of www.artba.org.