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4 Feb, 2022 13:51

‘Disturbing’ state of high-traffic American bridges revealed

The total cost of bridge repairs has been pegged at $260 billion, but political infighting in Washington keeps progress slow
‘Disturbing’ state of high-traffic American bridges revealed

Nearly 224,000 high-traffic US bridges – roughly a third of all such structures in the country – either need to be replaced or require major repairs, according to a new report. It says over 43,500 bridges, which are crossed over 167 million times daily, have deteriorated to such a poor condition that they are “structurally deficient.”

The report, published on Wednesday by transport infrastructure advocacy group American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), analyzes recently released figures from the US Department of Transportation’s (DoT) 2021 National Bridge Inventory database. The group estimates that the total cost of repairs could run up to $260 billion.

“If placed end-to-end, these bridges would stretch over 6,100 miles – long enough to crisscross the country from Los Angeles to Portland, Maine and back again,” ARTBA Chief Economist Alison Premo Black noted. She told Axios that progress was being made “at a very slow pace” to address the issue.

The report comes days after a commuter bridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania collapsed just hours before President Joe Biden arrived last Friday to discuss his trillion-dollar infrastructure plan for the US. The half-century-old Fern Hollow Bridge was one of those the DoT had classified as being in poor condition, according to Reuters.

Many bridges built after World War II were meant to last at least a century, but are growing weaker earlier than expected due to a mix of “extreme weather, massive growth of vehicle traffic, deferred maintenance and a lack of coordinated oversight,” Axios said.

Noting the “unprecedented” expansion of cities, Kevan Stone, from the National Association of County Engineers, told the outlet that “the infrastructure was never designed to handle the amount of traffic that these structures are expected to deal with every day.”

The ARTBA report warned that some 78,800 bridges needed to be replaced and noted that it would take 30 years to repair all the “structurally deficient” bridges at the current rate of progress. In a statement, the group’s CEO Dave Bauer blamed the slow progress on “the political divide” around Biden’s infrastructure bills.

Last month, the DoT announced that bridge repairs over the next five years would cost $26.5 billion.