Two recent bridge collapses left many drivers wondering how many structurally deficient bridges there are within the U.S. According to a new study, plenty of bridges are in need of significant repairs and Americans travel over such bridges 260 million times each day. If this research spurs calls for a massive repair project, those who travel over these bridges frequently may need to take other roads and optimize their new schedules with route planning software.
Many aging bridges in need of repair
Research from Transportation for America revealed one in nine American bridges are structurally deficient. The data shows 66,405 bridges - 11 percent of all bridges in the nation - are in need of maintenance or should be replaced altogether. Many of these have been in use for decades, and the report indicates the average age of a bridge deemed structurally deficient is 65 years old. This is a concern because the average structure was only designed to last about 50 years.
While this is a serious issue now, the problem could get worse as the years go by. The average bridge is currently 43 years old and nearing the end of its intended lifespan. The report showed that by 2023, about one-quarter of all bridges in the U.S. will be more than 65 years old, which will likely drastically increase the number of structures in need of significant repairs.
Repair initiatives addressed differently
While more bridges need to be fixed or to be replaced completely, the amount of such projects in progress has declined steadily over the years. The report detailed that in the past four years, the country has repaired three times fewer bridges than were fixed between 1992 and 1996.
With the growing number of structures that are in need of service, some states have taken the initiative to make their bridges safer. Congress recently passed legislation that got rid of a specific bridge repair fund and instead allowed individual states to determine how transportation funds are utilized.
While this has allowed some states to improve the number of bridges deemed deficient, it has permitted others to spend funds elsewhere and worsen the situation. Currently, the state with the most insufficient bridges is Pennsylvania, with 24.5 percent of its bridges not up to par. It is followed by Oklahoma (22.6 percent), Iowa (21.2 percent), Rhode Island (20.7 percent) and South Dakota (20.6 percent). Florida and Nevada top the list with the fewest deficient bridges, both with merely 2.2 percent of structures not meeting expectations. Texas (2.6 percent), Arizona (3.2 percent) and Utah (4.3 percent) also had low numbers of bridges with structural issues.
The Transportation for America report advises members of Congress to determine how to raise additional revenue so bridge repairs can continue once the current program expires. Dedicating new revenue to infrastructure support and repair, and specifically to bridge maintenance, will help keep the nation's roads and bridges in good condition, according to the data.
Lack of repairs could lead to problems
Fewer repairs initiatives could lead to significant issues in the future. While collapses like the one recently seen in Washington state are relatively uncommon, large potholes or sudden, unexpected closures could throw drivers off schedule if they typically cross a bridge to complete a run and prevent them from taking the most direct route. As such, it is important for fleet managers to remain aware of any planned construction on local bridges that could impact driver routes, and utilize route optimization software to adjust schedules accordingly.