Transportation Nation

210 Million Vehicles Cross Deficient Bridges Daily: Report

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

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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Transportation Nation

Riders, Drivers Will Get To Sound Off On Proposed NY-NJ Port Authority Toll Hikes

Monday, August 15, 2011

The George Washington Bridge, a NY-NJ Port Authority Crossing. (Photo by wally g / Flickr)

(New York, NY - WNYC) The New York-New Jersey Port Authority will hold public hearings tomorrow on a proposal for steep toll and fare hikes that could take effect as soon as next month. The increases were announced ten days ago, with a vote by the authority's Board of Commissioners scheduled for August 19. But first, riders and drivers will have a chance to express their feelings about PATH trains costing a dollar more per ride and Hudson River bridges and tunnels going up to 15 dollars per round-trip.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie call the proposed hikes "indiscriminate and exorbitant," though it's an open question about whether they will accept a scaled-down version. (A New York Times editorial was hardly alone in characterizing the initial remarks as "gubernatorial theatrics.")

Neither governor is ruling out the toll hikes altogether.

Other editorial writers have labeled them "grotesque" and "a heavy burden." And Automobile Association of America spokesman Ron Sinclair told TN that, "Our members are contacting us and telling us it’s very unfair, it's outrageous, it's a burden that's going to be tough to bear during a difficult economy."

But labor unions, and business and trade organizations, say the hikes are needed to keep the port and airports running, bridges standing and progress moving on a rebuilt World Trade Center.

The Port Authority says they're needed because it's been hit with a triple-whammy: a recession that has caused lower volumes of toll-paying traffic on its crossings to the tune of $2.6 billion; post-9/11 security costs that have driven up the budget of the World Trade Center rebuilding; and "the need for the largest overhaul of facilities in the agency’s 90-year history."

(Go here for the authority's justification of the hikes. And here for Andrea Bernstein's analysis of the politics behind it.)

Tomorrow, the authority will host hearings in New York and New Jersey to learn whether their customers think that's worth the increased tolls and fares they may soon be required to pay.

Here is the Port Authority's August 16 public hearing schedule:

Newark Liberty International Airport
1 Conrad Road
Building 157, Bay 3
Newark, NJ 07114
8 a.m.

Port Authority Technical Center
241 Erie Street, Room 212
Jersey City, NJ 07310
8 a.m.

Port Ivory/Howland Hook
40 Western Ave.
Staten Island, NY 10303
8 a.m.

Port Authority Bus Terminal
625 8th Avenue
Times Square Conference Room – 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10018
8 a.m.

George Washington Bridge Administration Building
220 Bruce Reynolds Way
Conference Room
Fort Lee, NJ 07024
6 p.m.

Holland Tunnel Administration Building,
13th Street & Provost Street
Conference Room
Jersey City, NJ 07310
6 p.m.

George Washington Bridge Bus Station
4211 Broadway
Lower Level Conference Room
New York, NY 10033
6 p.m.

John F. Kennedy International Airport
Port Authority Administration
Building 14, 2nd Floor Conference Room
Jamaica, NY 11430
6 p.m.

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Transportation Nation

Baby Born on Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

Monday, May 16, 2011

How often do you get a happy dispatch from the MTA about closing down toll lanes? No word yet on the name.  Verrazana?  Staten? Tollie? -TN

Special Delivery At Verrazano-Narrows Bridge As Officers Assist In Birth of Baby Girl

MTA Bridges and Tunnels Officers assisted in alleviating a joyful traffic tie-up at the Staten Island bound toll plaza of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge early Monday morning when a woman gave birth to a healthy, 7 lb. 2 ounce baby girl in an E-ZPass lane.

Actually, because the event occurred at 3 a.m. there was little traffic on the plaza but the officers were thrilled to be able to assist in the birth.  “I’m a father myself, and it was exciting to be part of such a happy event,” said Sgt. Mark Herbert, who drove the child to the hospital in a Bridges and Tunnels’ patrol car.

The excitement began around 3:10 a.m.

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Transportation Nation

Report: One in Nine Bridges in America "Structurally Deficient, Potentially Dangerous"

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) Almost 70,000 bridges and overpasses in America are in need of serious maintenance or they could become dangerous according to a report released Wednesday by Transportation for America.

The transportation reform coalition study, The Fix We're in For: The State of the Nation's Bridges, found that "despite billions of dollars in annual federal, state and local funds directed toward the maintenance of existing bridges, 69,223 bridges – representing more than 11 percent of total highway bridges in the U.S. – are classified as “structurally deficient,” according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA)."

Structurally deficient bridges require significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement and can be subject to speed and weight restrictions, but they are not unsafe. President-Elect of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Andy Herman, pointed out, "the nation has a very efficient bridge inspection system ... every bridge is inspected every two years." Unsafe bridges are shut down or emergency repairs are immediately ordered.

But the slew of structurally deficient bridges pose a major financial burden on federal and state governments, and will increase in need as time goes on. The study points to the age of America's infrastructure: the average age of an American bridge is 42 years-old. "I think we all know that America's infrastructure is decidedly middle aged," said James Corless, Director of Transportation for America, in a press conference Wednesday. "Most, when they were built, were built for about a lifespan of 50." Many bridges are already older than that. Corless says, that suggests the problem will grow in the years ahead "if we don't address this soon."

The report looked at FHA data on the nation's nearly 600,000 bridges and overpasses. Transportation for America cites FHA statistics estimating $70.9 billion needed to address the backlog of deficient bridges, "far more than what we are currently spending," according to Corless.

Herman added, "right now we're just not spending enough on our bridges. If you look at the current budget that is actually being spent, it's about $10.5 billion per year on our bridges." He cited FHA estimates that call for about $17 billion in annual bridge maintenance spending.

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Transportation Nation

Report: California's Bridges Crumbling -- and San Francisco's Are the Worst

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

(San Francisco – Casey Miner, KALW News) A new report by transit advocacy group Transportation for America provides a sobering assessment of the condition of California's bridges: in short, not good.The report finds that one in eight bridges are structurally deficient in some way. In the Bay Area, that number rises to one in five; in San Francisco, it's more than one in three.

County Number of bridges Number of structurally deficient bridges Percentage of bridges that are structurally deficient Average annual daily traffic on structurally deficient bridges
San Francisco 116 40 34.5% 2,569,899
Alameda 601 130 21.6% 5,608,117
San Mateo 344 74 21.5% 3,064,075
Sonoma 601 121 20.1% 737,485
Santa Clara 939 182 19.4% 5,804,761
Contra Costa 560 105 18.8% 3,241,193
Marin 199 31 15.6% 1,117,587
Napa 150 23 15.3% 80,153

A bridge is considered "structurally deficient" when one of three bridge components – deck, superstructure, or substructure – receives a poor grade on a federal scale. The worst bridges receive low grades across the board. Of the 40 San Francisco bridges deemed structurally deficient, city officials oversee only five; four of those are currently slated for repair. Caltrans and other agencies are responsible for the rest.  The bridges that received the lowest rankings were by the Caltrain station at 22nd and 23rd Streets; the most highly-traveled structurally deficient bridge was the 5th St./Hwy 101 bridge.

The report did not assess the state's biggest, most iconic bridges – neither the Bay Bridge nor the Golden Gate bridge were included. Instead, it looked at the thousands of workaday bridges that most motorists hardly think of: the highway on-ramps and overpasses that connect freeways and surface streets. These bridges are, on average, just over 44 years old – slightly older than the national average of 42 years. Most bridges are designed to last roughly 50 years.

The report notes that though California's bridges rank in the bottom third nationally, the state has used up all available federal funding to try and address the problem, even going so far as to shift funds designated for other purposes. The state spent $907 million on bridge repair in 2008. The report notes that across the country, repair needs far outstrip available funds: while funding has increased by $650 million over the past several years, the need has increased by $22.8 billion.

Read the full report here.

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Transportation Nation

Throgs Neck Bridge Turns 50: Moses Celebrates (Then, Not Now)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Aerial view of the Throgs Neck Bridge. Photographer unknown. (Courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels Special Archive)

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) New York City's Throgs Neck Bridge -- which the MTA calls "the first major bridge of the postwar era," officially turns 50 today.

So it's a good time to look at some history.

"Plans to build a new bridge to try and relieve traffic on its sister Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, two miles to the west, had been in the making for some 15 years," writes the MTA. Robert Moses, who was then the head of the Triborough Bridge Authority, conceived of the bridge as a way to relieve traffic on the Bronx Whitestone Bridge. (Which was built to relieve traffic on the Triborough Bridge -- now known as the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge.)

You can hear Moses talking about the need for the bridge in this piece of WNYC audio from the bridge's  October 1957 groundbreaking. (Audio is courtesy of the NYC Municipal/New York Public Radio Archives.)  Moses beings speaking about 15 minutes in.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held at the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and the speakers included Moses and a man named John Johnson, who was then the New York State Superintendent of Public Works.

Lest you think public protest against construction projects is a recent phenomenon, make sure you listen to the audio at about 11:45 minutes in, as Johnson bemoaned the difficulty of building large scale projects like highways and bridges.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Bridge & Tunnel

Friday, December 10, 2010

Listeners weigh in on the "Koch Bridge" and "Carey Tunnel." Who would you name a bridge after? Henry Stern, director of New York Civic and a former city councilman and parks commissioner, joins the discussion.

Comments [31]

Transportation Nation

MTA "Terror-Proofing" Bridges and Tunnels

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Manhattan Bridge, New York City. Image: (CC) by Flickr user barry.pousman

(New York — Jim O’Grady, WNYC) The MTA is coming to the end of a $250 million project to “terror-proof” seven bridges spanning the East River and ten subway tunnels passing under it, reports The New York Post. The hardening includes lining tunnels with high-impact metal, dropping massive slabs of rock and concrete on the riverbed where tunnels have not been dug through bedrock, and fitting bridges with blast-resistant plates and collars on cables.

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz confirmed that the hardening was not a routine upgrade but “related to increasing security in the system.” He said the budget came from “a combination” of sources, including the MTA, the Department of Homeland Security and federal stimulus money.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is urging municipalities across the country to adopt New York City's security saying: "If you see something, say something."

Asked about other security projects in New York City, he said the agency continues to add surveillance cameras and police patrols at river crossings. The slow roll out of cameras are a sore point with the agency. In 2005, MTA hired Lockheed Martin to install 1,750 advanced technology cameras throughout the subway that could detect unattended bags on platforms. The technology didn't work. Now MTA and Lockheed are arguing in court over the $251 million price tag.

Ortiz also said the Department of Homeland Security has officially adopted New York City’s “If you see something, say something” campaign. The department is urging municipalities around the U.S. to use the saying in their outreach to the public.

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Transportation Nation

GAO Report: A Quarter of Bridges "Deficient"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) And that's an improvement. In a report released to Congress today, the GAO says "one in four bridges in the United States is either structurally deficient and in need of repair, or functionally obsolete and is not adequate for today's traffic." Turns out that's better than it was twelve years ago, but the GAO is decrying the lack of comprehensive information on state and local bridge spending. The GAO says that makes it impossible to measure whether federal bridge spending is effective, and whether localities are using federal funds to supplant spending they would have made anyway.

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New Willis Avenue Bridge Arrives in Bayonne

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A 350-foot bridge floated into New York harbor under the cover of night this morning. It’s the replacement span for the Willis Avenue Bridge and was built near Albany and sent down the river.


Transportation Nation

A Bridge Floats Down the Hudson

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

flickr user: Pro-Zak (by-nc)

(New York, NY - Collin Campbell, Transportation Nation)  A 350-foot bridge floated into New York harbor under the cover of night this morning. It’s the replacement span for the Willis Avenue Bridge and was built near Albany and sent down the river.

New York City’s Department of Transportation assembled the bridge in Coeymans, New York to avoid the impact that construction

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Transportation Nation

When a bridge dies: life on the infrastructure frontier

Thursday, March 25, 2010


(Collin Campbell)

(Chimney Rock, VT - Transportation Nation) - Many people who live around Lake Champlain remember where they were when they got the news.


For Tim Kayhart, it was 2 p.m. on October 16th.  He was chopping corn in a field next to the Champlain Bridge in Addison, Vermont. A neighbor pulled over, walked up to him in the field and told him the span had just been closed for good; scheduled for demolition.  "It felt like a brick wall," Kayhart said.


Tim Kayhart and his brother have 1,7000 acres split between New York and Vermont. The livestock, feed and fertilizer they once shuttled over the bridge will now have to go by ferry across Lake Champlain.

Kayhart’s mother and father bought the dairy farm that he and his brother now work on in 1979.  Their collection of cows and a handful of red barns sits about half a mile from where a bridge used to be. As the business grew, the Kayharts shopped for more space in New York. The land was cheaper, the soil was better and they settled on a property four miles away, across the lake. The two farms came to work so well together that they trucked manure from the cows in Vermont to fertilize fields in New York.


On October 16, the New York State Department of Transportation said a recent inspection of piers that supported the bridge found they were no longer structurally sound.  The bridge would be closed immediately.  In that instant, the distance between Kayhart's farms went from four miles to 150 miles, via a long drive around the southern end of the lake. 

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Studio 360

WEB BONUS: Judith Dupre's favorite bridge

Friday, August 17, 2007

Judith Dupre talks about the innovative Penobscot Narrows Bridge in Maine.