ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — A recent report of the 2013 National Bridge Inventory by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) indicates that motorists travel over the state’s 2,274 structurally compromised bridges approximately 1.2 million times every day.
The data shows that of the 17,044 bridges in Mississippi, over 13 percent are in need of replacement. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) analysis of the report ranks Mississippi 10th nationally in the number of structurally deficient bridges and 14thin percentage of deficient bridges.
The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) maintains an inventory of 5,731 bridges and 29,000 highway lane miles, and invests $450 million annually in routine roadway maintenance projects. In FY 2013, maintenance operations resurfaced 135 miles of roadway, sealed another 674 lane miles, reshaped 5,740 miles of unpaved shoulders, applied 3,184 miles of striping, mowed 298,320 acres of right-of-way grass and removed 9,259 cubic yards of litter. MDOT allotted more than $64 million to fund the replacement of 14 structurally deficient bridges across the state, another $3.6 million was utilized on routine bridge maintenance and $1.1 million was spent on bridge repairs due to vehicle crashes.
“The report shows that the time for action is now, not years down the deteriorated road,” said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath. “All of the state’s roads and bridges that were constructed as a result of the 1987 four-lane highway program have a shelf life. With the current level of funding for roadway and bridge maintenance, conditions will get worse before they get better. The downgrading of posted weight limits on deficient bridges will force local businesses and school buses to seek alternate routes and hinder the delivery of goods and people in a timely manner. The need for vehicle repairs will also rise and place further financial burdens on citizens. If the call for additional support is left unchecked, the lifeline for our local and national economy will be in jeopardy.”
On April 29, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx unveiled a long-term transportation bill that will be sent to Congress for consideration as the House and Senate face looming deadlines to avoid the economic uncertainty and job loss that would ensue if the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money this summer. The plan addresses the nation’s infrastructure deficit with a $302 billion, four-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal. As outlined in the FY 2015 budget, the plan will invest in the national infrastructure network, increase safety and efficiency, and provide greater access to ladders of opportunity, all without adding to the deficit, by relying on the President’s proposed pro-growth business tax reforms.
“I visited eight states and 13 cities as part of my Invest in America, Commit to the Future bus tour this month and everywhere I went, I heard the same thing — people want more transportation options and better roads and bridges to get them where they need to go,” Secretary Foxx said. “Failing to act before the Highway Trust Fund runs out is unacceptable – and unaffordable. This proposal offers the kind of job creation and certainty that the American people want and deserve. I have been pleased to see that members of both parties are already working together to solve these challenges, and I look forward to continuing our discussion and to supporting and building on the good work that’s already been done.”