While it’s not exactly news that many bridges in the U.S. are in need of repair or replacement, the scope and cost of the problem has more than a few people worried. The most recent National Bridge Inventory includes 607,380 bridges that are subject to uniform bridge inspection standards. Of those, there were 65,605 “structurally deficient” and 20,808 “fracture critical.” Of those, 7,795 were both. What’s more, the bridges are in all 50 states and most are open for business.
The problem with fixing or replacing that many bridges is that it will costs billions of dollars and thanks to a change in accounting at the federal level, a fund that was specific to bridge repair no longer exists and now projects have to compete for funds. Further complicating the issue is that different states go about bridge work differently and even though some progress is being made, each year more bridges are added to the deficient lists. Experts says that if a bridge is open to traffic, it has been inspected and is safe to use. If a bridge is questionable, weight limits can be placed, which will help in the short term. But that still doesn’t deal with the problem in a real way.
The true underlying issue is simply one of age. Many bridges in this country were built as early as 1900 and they were never designed with today’s level of traffic in mind. Experts also say that nothing lasts forever and expecting a 100+ year old bridge to stay sound forever is a little unrealistic. The simplest solution would be to find some money that’s currently being wasted on useless items like say, wars in the Middle East, Congressional salaries or the Pentagon budget and divert them to fixing the national infrastructure. A national bridge building and restoration campaign would put thousands of Americans to work, improve our transportation system, improve the business climate, and make us all far safer than more bombs and missiles that sit in stockpiles or get dropped on people who have already been bombed back into the stone age. Or did I miss something?
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Image courtesy of dc.streetsblog.org .