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John Hennessy III,

Bridging the Gap: Restoring and Rebuilding the Nation’s Bridges

Posted by Content Coordinator on Wednesday, August 11th, 2010



  • Age and Deterioration – The nation has a generation of Baby Boomer Bridges, constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, that need major repair or replacement. Usually built to last 50 years, the average bridge in this country today is 43 years old. While safe to travel, almost one in four bridges is either structurally deficient and in need of repair, or functionally obsolete and too narrow for today’s traffic volumes.
  • Congestion – The nation cannot fix its congestion problems without fixing its bridge problems. The nation’s bridges have become chokepoints on the country’s freeway system, particularly at interchanges and major river crossings. The top 10 highway interchange bottlenecks cause an average of 1.5 million truck hours of delay each year. Much of the cost to improve highway interchanges is directly related to the construction of bridges and overpasses that separate and elevate lanes of traffic.
  • Soaring Construction Costs – The dollars available for bridges, in fact for all categories of highway and transit investment, are buying less and less in the marketplace. With oil nearly quadrupling in price in the past four years, construction costs have soared. The costs of steel, asphalt, concrete, and earthwork have risen by at least 50 percent. Thirty months of unprecedented construction inflation are forcing state officials to delay important bridge replacement projects.
  • Maintaining Bridge Safety – Nearly every state faces funding shortages which prevent them from applying the kind of ongoing preventive maintenance, repair, and replacement that would keep their bridges sound indefinitely.
  • New Bridge Needs – The staggering costs of new bridges and their related interchanges prevent many states from building the bridge mega-projects that are needed to address congestion and serve economic growth. Massive costs far outweigh available resources.





  • Investment – All levels of government—federal, state, and local—will have to significantly increase transportation investment if the nation is to preserve what has been built and ensure the modernization essential for future growth. A significant portion of that additional investment would be needed to improve, expand, and widen bridges on the nation’s highways.
  • Research and Innovation – The safety, longevity, and economy of U.S. bridges are being constantly improved by innovations in design, materials, and technology. Using such advances, a new generation of safe and long-lasting bridges can be built and the life of existing bridges extended. Research on bridge design, materials, and preservation must be continued.
  • Systematic Maintenance – Through systematic, long-term management systems, states can produce stable conditions for the entire inventory of bridges for the lowest life-cycle cost. The goal is to find the right balance between fixing immediate problems, conducting preventive maintenance, and periodically replacing a reasonable number of old bridges to keep the health of its bridge population stable.
  • Public Awareness – The Minneapolis bridge collapse on August 1, 2007 was a wake-up call that focused national attention on the importance of the bridges that America takes for granted. Awareness is the first step to a national commitment to increase investment in transportation infrastructure.
  • Financial Options – Meeting the nation’s bridge needs will require at least two forms of financing options. In metropolitan areas, where major new bridges are needed to accommodate heavy volumes of traffic, tolling can play a significant role in financing costs. In other areas, however, state and local transportation agencies will need to rely on an overall increase in tax revenues to make possible the bridge preservation investments needed.

View the full report ( Bridging the Gap: Restoring and Rebuilding the Nation’s Bridges

Download the full report (PDF)

About American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
“The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is the voice for transportation and catalyst for organizational and technical excellence…AASHTO advocates transportation-related policies and provides technical services to support states in their efforts to efficiently and safely move people and goods.”

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