The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) has published its annual report on the condition of the nation’s bridges. The report, based on analysis of Department of Transportation data, paints a grim picture of bridges throughout the country, saying it could take 80 years to fix our “national problem” of deficient structures.
The report said 47,052 of the nation’s 616,087 bridges (7.6%) are “structurally deficient and in poor condition.” One out of every three interstate highway bridges is in need of repairs. ARTBA reports that the pace of bridge improvements is at its slowest point in five years, and at that clip it would take more than 80 years to replace or repair them all.
California received unfavorable rankings in the report: the group ranked California as 28th worst in the nation for percent of structurally deficient bridges — and 7th for the largest number of structurally deficient bridges.
Of the 25,737 bridges in the state, 1,812 (or 7.0%) are classified as structurally deficient. This means one of the bridge’s key structural elements is in poor or worse condition.
The state has identified needed repairs on 5,093 bridges
The estimated cost to repair those bridges is $8.8 billion
150 of the structurally deficient bridges are on the Interstate Highway System
561 bridges are posted for load, restricting the size and weight of vehicles able to cross the structure
The report also notes the Top Most Travelled Structurally Deficient Bridges in California. Of the top 10 structurally deficient bridges listed, nine are in Southern California; five are in Los Angeles County spanning the congested 405 & 101 freeways, and the remaining four are in Orange County straddling busy Interstate 5. Alarmingly, the bridge handling the most traffic is also the oldest. Built six decades ago in 1959, the concrete bridge carrying US Route 101 over Kester Ave. in Los Angeles County bears a staggering 289,000 crossings daily, with heavy trucks taking up 10% of that traffic.
A recent incident in Northern California is indicative of the urgency to restore the state’s bridges to good repair. When chunks of concrete fell from the upper deck of the aging Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and struck a car on the lower deck, authorities were forced to shut down the entire bridge—a major traffic artery across San Francisco Bay—for hours, causing massive gridlock. A $10 million repair effort is now underway.
ARTBA officials say the way to address all these shortcomings is through major federal investment in transportation infrastructure.
“America’s bridge network is outdated, underfunded and in urgent need of modernization,” said Alison Premo Black, the ARTBA chief economist who conducted the analysis. “State and local government just haven’t been given the necessary resources to get the job done.”