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210 Million Vehicles Cross Deficient Bridges Daily: Report

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 03:11 PM

The Brooklyn Bridge, currently being repaired after receiving a "poor" rating (photo by Kate Hinds)

In Los Angeles, an average of 396 drivers cross a deficient bridge every second. In New York, that number is 203 drivers per second. And those cities don't even have the highest percentage of worst bridges in the country.

Transportation for America, an advocacy group fighting spending cuts to transportation, says in a new report that more than 18,000 high-traffic bridges are rated "structurally deficient."

In the New York metropolitan area, 17.5 million vehicles cross a deficient bridge every day. In the New Jersey portion of that metro area, 8,593,823 vehicles cross a deficient bridge every day.

This rating doesn't necessarily mean a bridge collapse is imminent. But it does mean that its "load carrying" elements are damaged or deteriorating, and a bridge that receives this rating will require frequent monitoring and significant maintenance to remain in service. Or, in a worse scenario, it will need to be taken out of service -- like Kentucky's Sherman Minton Bridge.

“The poor condition of our bridges is a problem that is not going away,” Andy Herrmann, president-elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers, “Most of the nation’s bridges were designed to last 50 years, and today, roughly a third are already 50 years or older.”

According to the report, Pittsburgh had the highest percentage of deficient bridges (30.4 percent) for a metro area with a population of over 2 million. Oklahoma City (19.8 percent) topped the chart for metro areas between 1-2 million, as did Tulsa (27.5 percent) for metro areas between 500,000-1 million.  You can download the full report here.

“Too many of New Jersey’s bridges are deteriorating and in desperate need of repair,” Senator Frank R. Lautenberg stated in a press release.  “Those in Washington who are undercutting transportation projects must stop, and work together to invest in infrastructure that will create jobs, make our communities safer and improve the economy for all.”

Everyone seems to agree that America's infrastructure is crumbling, but just how to pay for its repair is a politically divisive issue getting a lot of play in Washington these days. The Senate is considering a transportation appropriations bill this week, and the House and the Senate versions are far apart. Meanwhile,  President Obama's American Jobs Act -- which initially set aside $50 billion for infrastructure repair-- is being broken up into pieces by Democrats in an effort to get it to pass.

More about structurally deficient bridges from the Federal Highway Administration (pdf), below:

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Comments [3]

Chuck Gilmore

I don't disagree with Roger Simpson who, according to his website, evidently works for a company providing commercial products to the industry. However, as a structural engineer of 45 years I've seen many "innovations in bridge construction technology" come and go after not living up to their advertised function for a whole variety of reasons. Yes, the industry needs to shorten the time for innovation to come to market, but not at the expense of serviceability and safety. Certainly more investment by our country in research and development to shorten that time frame is critical; but for a government that can’t even pass a transportation bill that provides vision and long-term certainty for the industry, I don’t have much hope.

Oct. 22 2011 06:44 PM
John Masi

I really don't think that a deficient government cares about a deficient bridge. When the bridge fails unfortunately jobs are eventually created and bid process gets passed over for a no-bid quick fix, which will be five times the price and the politicians in the district gain even if there is loss of life. And soon the media forgets until the next bridge collapses. Catastrophe dictates policy in the US.

Oct. 21 2011 10:54 AM
Roger Simpson

What Andy Hermann says is correct. However, many proven innovations in bridge construction technology that reduce installation and maintenance costs and improve safety need to be used in all renovated or new construction bridges. Currently it is taking 10 to 20 years for many innovations to come to practice because its seems that any uninformed skeptic, even within the engineering profession, can delay further development and installation of these products. This needs to change in order for the US to meet its infrastructure needs within its pocketbook.

Oct. 21 2011 10:27 AM

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