The US needs bridge repairs

The US needs many of its bridges to be repaired.
Maintenance / February 15, 2022 1 minute 30 seconds Read
By MJ Woof
The US has a serious problem with regard to the state of its bridges, including some of historic importance – image courtesy of © Tomas1111,
The US has a desperate need to repair or replace many of its ageing bridges according to a report by the American Road Transportation and Builders Association (ARTBA).

ARTBA’s analysis of data from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) 2021 National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database highlights that 224,000 US bridges either need repair or replacement. Meanwhile, 43,600 are structurally deficient and in poor condition. This figure accounts for 36% of all US bridges and drivers cross these structures 167.5 million times/day according to ARTBA.

If placed end-to-end, these bridges would stretch over 9,760km, said ARTBA chief economist Dr Alison Premo Black, who conducted the analysis.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed into law in November 2021, provides states with significant new resources to make long overdue infrastructure improvements, including bridge repairs. However, Congress and the Biden administration have yet to release much of the additional funding because they have not enacted a full-year FY 2022 transportation appropriations law at the IIJA-authorised investment levels. 

“The longer it takes to bridge the political divide on the FY 2022 spending bills, the longer it will take for transportation improvements to get started,” ARTBA president & CEO Dave Bauer said. “We urge Congress to act forthwith so that the American people can begin to realise the benefits of the historic investments in the bipartisan infrastructure law.”

Based on average repair and replacement cost data published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and submitted by bridge owners (typically state DOTs), ARTBA estimates the cost of identified repairs for all 224,000 bridges, including the 43,578 structurally deficient, is US$260 billion.

The report also finds that 78,800 bridges should be replaced, while the number of structurally deficient bridges was down by 1,445 compared to 2020. But at current pace, it would take 30 years to repair them all. Almost half of the 619,588 US bridges, 48, are rated in fair condition. This means that the bridge shows evidence of minor deterioration or minor cracks. The number of bridges in fair condition grew by 2,916 in 2021, reaching 297,888 structures.

States with the largest number of bridges in poor condition: Iowa (4,504), Pennsylvania (3,198), Illinois (2,405), Oklahoma (2,296), Missouri (2,218), New York (1,672), Louisiana (1,631), California (1,493), West Virginia (1,490), and Ohio (1,334)

States and territories with the most bridges in poor condition as a percentage of their total bridge inventory: West Virginia (20%), Iowa (19%), Rhode Island (17.5%), South Dakota (17.3%), Pennsylvania (13.8%), Louisiana (12.7%), Maine (12.6%), Puerto Rico (12.1%), North Dakota (11.2%), and Michigan (11%).