America Is Literally Falling Apart: 61,000 Bridges in Need of Repair

April 1, 2015 Updated: April 1, 2015

Did you know the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States, is “structurally deficient?”

It’s true, and an analysis of the 2014 U.S. Department of Transportation National Bridge Inventory database shows that about 61,000 bridges—including the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City—are “structurally deficient” and are in need of “significant repair.”

The findings were published on April 1 by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, a trade association. Last year, the ARTBA found that 63,000 U.S. bridges weren’t up to par, which means about 2,000 or so bridges were repaired since then.

“Cars, trucks and school buses cross the nation’s 61,064 structurally compromised bridges 215 million times every day,” the organization wrote in a news release. “Not surprisingly, the most heavily traveled are on the Interstate Highway System, which carries the bulk of truck traffic and passenger vehicles.”

The report comes just before federal highway and transit funding is set to expire on May 31 unless Congress does something about it, ARTBA said.

“State and local governments are doing the best they can to address these significant challenges, given limited resources,” ARTBA’s chief economist, Dr. Alison Premo Black, said in the news release. “Without additional investment from all levels of government, our infrastructure spending will be a zero-sum game,” she said.

Citing U.S. DOT data, she noted there’s a current backlog of more than $115 billion in bridge work and another $755 billion backlog in highway projects.

“Many of the most heavily traveled bridges are nearly 50 years old. Elected officials can’t just sprinkle fairy dust on America’s bridge problem and wish it away,” Black added. “It will take committed investment by legislators at all levels of government.”

The state with the most traveled bridges deemed structurally deficient is California. And in California, Los Angeles had the most.

However, the most traveled bridge with deficiencies is in Columbus, Ohio. After that, the next 30 or so are all located in California.

“The 250 most heavily crossed structurally deficient bridges are on urban interstate highways, particularly in California. Nearly 87 percent of these bridges were built before 1970,” the organization said in the release.

But it isn’t California that has the most structurally deficient bridges, as Pennsylvania and Iowa—ranked first and second, respectively—each have more than 5,000. Next is Oklahoma with 4,200, Missouri with 3,300, Nebraska with 2,600, and California with 2,500.

The Brooklyn Bridge in New York, the Vicksburg Bridge near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi, and the Rainbow Bridge over the Neches River in Texas were listed as structurally deficient.

And, “At least 15 percent of the bridges in eight states—Rhode Island (23 percent), Pennsylvania (22 percent), Iowa (21 percent), South Dakota (20 percent), Oklahoma (18 percent), Nebraska (17 percent), North Dakota (16 percent) and Maine (15 percent)—fall in the structurally deficient category,” the ARTBA added.

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