Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | September 17, 2013

America’s Bridges

Bridge Alcantara

Via NPR, we learn that the National Bridge Inventory has classified some 65,605 bridges as “structurally deficient” and 20,808 as “fracture critical.” Of those, 7,795 were in both categories.

According to NPR, “the latest federal data showed four states that each had more than 600 bridges deemed both structurally deficient and fracture critical: Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Pennsylvania.” Lovely.

Here’s a Huffington Post story on the topic:

The number of bridges nationwide that are both structurally deficient and fracture critical has been fairly constant for a number of years, experts say. But both lists fluctuate frequently, especially at the state level, since repairs can move a bridge out of the deficient categories while spans that become more dilapidated can be added. There also is considerable lag time between when state transportation officials report data to the federal government and when updates are made to the National Bridge Inventory.

Umm, why is there a “considerable lag time” here? Anyone? The article doesn’t say.

Another excerpt:

Finding money to replace structurally deficient and fracture critical bridges in rural areas is especially difficult. Light traffic tends to make those bridges a low priority even though they may be keenly important to people in the region.

And finally (emphasis added):

Congressional interest in fixing bridges rose after the I-35W collapse in Minneapolis, but efforts to add billions of federal dollars specifically for repair and replacement of deteriorating bridges foundered. A sweeping transportation law enacted last year eliminated a dedicated bridge fund that had been around for more than three decades. State transportation officials had complained the fund’s requirements were too restrictive. Now, bridge repairs or replacements must compete with other types of highway projects for federal aid.

I may need a drink.

Image Credit: the Roman Alcántara Bridge across the River Tajo, Cáceres Province, Extremadura, Spain. Built by order of the Emperor Trajan between 104 and 106 AD. Photo by “Dantla” and used under a GNU Free License. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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