The Fix We’re In For: The State of our Nation’s Bridges

Posted by Content Coordinator on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011


America’s infrastructure is beginning to show its age. Our nation’s roads, highways and bridges have increasingly received failing scores on maintenance and upkeep – the American Society of Civil Engineers rated our overall infrastructure a “D” and our bridges a “C.” For roads and highways, this manifests itself in rutted roadways, cracked pavement and abundant potholes, creating significant costs for drivers and businesses. For bridges, lack of maintenance can lead to the sudden closure of a critical transportation link or, far worse, a collapse that results in lost lives and a significant decline in regional economic productivity.

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 (FHWA). “Structurally deficient” bridges require significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement. A number of bridges also exceed their expected lifespan of 50 years. The average age of an American bridge is 42 years.

The maintenance backlog will only worsen as bridges age and costs rise. According to FHWA’s 2009 statistics, $70.9 billion is needed to address the current backlog of deficient bridges. This figure will likely increase as many of our most heavily traveled bridges – including those built more than 40 years ago as part of the Interstate System – near the end of their expected lifespan.

The good news is that some states have worked hard to address the problem and have shrunken the backlog of deficient bridges. The bad news is that, critical as these efforts are, they are not nearly enough. Two key problems persist: First, while Congress has repeatedly declared bridge safety a national priority, existing federal programs offer no real incentives or assurances that aging bridges will actually get fixed. Second, the current level of investment is nowhere near what is needed to keep up with our rapidly growing backlog of aging bridges.


Download the Full Report: The Fix We’re In For

About Transportation for America
Transportation for America has formed a broad coalition of housing, business, environmental, public health, transportation, equitable development, and other organizations. We’re all seeking to align our national, state, and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development.

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