Report cites $70 billion tab for bridge repair and replacement backlog

One in nine bridges and overpasses is rated in poor enough condition that they could become dangerous or be closed without near-term repair, according to a Transportation for America report “The Fix We’re In For: The State of the Nation’s Bridges.” Nearly 70,000 crossings nationwide are rated “structurally deficient” and need substantial repair or replacement, authors contend, while the Federal Highway Administration estimates that the backlog of potentially dangerous bridges would cost $70.9 billion to clear—versus a current federal outlay just over $5 billion per year.

The report ranks states by overall bridge conditions on a scale of 1 to 51: 23 states have a higher percentage of deficient bridges than the national average of 11.5 percent. States with the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges are Pennsylvania, 26.5 percent; Oklahoma, 22 percent; Iowa, 21.7 percent; Rhode Island, 21.6 percent; and South Dakota, 20.3 percent. On the other end of the spectrum of bridge condition ratings are Nevada, 2.2 percent; Florida, 2.4 percent; Texas and Arizona, 3 percent each; and Utah, 4.5 percent.

“As Congress takes up the next six-year transportation bill, it is imperative we devote a larger share of funding to bridges,” says Transportation for America Director James Corless. “Americans also want to see more accountability for maintaining our infrastructure: 64 percent of [Rockefeller Foundation-polled] voters say that the way government currently spends money on building and maintaining our transportation infrastructure is inefficient and unwise.”

Funding needs are growing rapidly, “The Fix We’re In For” authors note, as the average age of bridges passes 42 years for structures that mostly were designed to have a 50-year lifespan before reconstruction or replacement. Today, roughly one-third of the nation’s 600,000 highway bridges are 50-plus years old. The release of “The Fix We’re In For” is the first in a series of reports and web components in a new Transportation for America campaign promoting adequate infrastructure investment.