“With our Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handling much of the country’s imports, managing smooth goods movement on our highways is essential for SoCal and beyond. Structurally deficient bridges threaten both our economy and public safety.”— John Hakel, Executive Director, Southern California Partnership for Jobs
The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) has published its 7th Annual Bridge Report, a comprehensive analysis of the condition of U.S. bridges.
Over one third of U.S. bridges—nearly 231,000 spans—need repair work at an estimated cost of $164 billion. More than 46,000 bridges are rated in poor condition and classified as “structurally deficient” and a total of 81,000 bridges need to be completely replaced.
Although California has made good headway in repairing its deficient bridges since the last report, the state ranks as 6th in the nation for the largest number of structurally deficient bridges, and has identified needed repairs on 2,006 bridges at an estimated cost of $8.8 billion.
The bridge report comes as Congress and the Trump administration continue working on measures to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. ARTBA says once policymakers shift from a rescue focus to economic recovery, robust transportation infrastructure investments have comprehensive benefits.
“Economic recovery from coronavirus begins with strategic road and bridge improvements,” says ARTBA President Dave Bauer. “Increased transportation investments support direct job creation and retention, while putting in place capital assets that will enhance U.S. productivity for decades to come. The sooner we invest in robust new transportation improvements, the sooner the American people will experience the economic benefits.”
This especially true for California, the nation’s largest gateway for international trade and domestic commerce. Freight movement generates about a third of California’s $3.1 trillion economy and creates more than 5 million jobs. This is why the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB 1) allocated funding specifically for trade corridor improvements. SB 1’s Trade Corridor Enhancement Program (TCEP) allocates $300 million annually for projects related to the routes and transportation infrastructure vital to California’s trade and freight economy.
For those California bridges that need repairs, SB 1 created a target to fix over 500 bridges over a decade. Many repairs will help the bridges meet current standards for goods movement. Caltrans has prioritized funding for 30 highway spans that don’t meet height or weight standards. These bridges—18 in Southern California and 12 in the Bay Area—are along freight-critical junctures and connect California’s ports to highways, moving goods across the country. Because these older bridges don’t meet current height or weight standards, trucks carrying larger or heavier loads are forced to make lengthy detours around them. This results in lost revenues, higher costs, increased emissions, traffic impacts, and damage to infrastructure not constructed to interstate pavement standards.
Burbank Blvd. bridge on Interstate 5 under demolition. (Photos: Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
SB 1-funded bridge projects currently under construction in Southern California include:
Interstate 5 – Glendale, Los Angeles County: $504.5 million project will lower roadway or replace 10 bridges to meet vertical clearance or truck load capacity standards.
State Route 60 – Industry, Los Angeles County: $54.9 million bridge project will improve the vertical clearance for trucks to improve freight movement on State Route 60.
Interstate 5 – Kern County: $7.5 million project will widen bridge to meet standard truck load capacity.