Deteriorating joints, metal fatigue, cracking and corrosion are what bridge inspectors said are signs that a bridge is "structurally deficient." Federal data showed more than 70,000 bridges across the country have earned that designation -- including the one that collapsed in Minneapolis.
Federal regulators said bridges that are structurally deficient are in need of repair, but they said they are not considered unsafe. Those that are considered dangerous are closed, officials said.
Government watchdogs said money is one problem that is added to the mix -- they pointed to a $65 billion bridge maintenance backlog as evidence.
"This administration has failed to support robust investment in surface transportation and the funding to accompany it," said house transportation committee chair James Oberstar.
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said the 1983 collapse of an interstate bridge in Connecticut led to major changes.
States share much of the burden, and now many of them are rushing to conduct inspections in hopes of avoiding a tragedy like the collapse in Minneapolis.
Last year, the Department of Transportation's inspector general criticized federal oversight efforts.
The report cited incorrect or outdated information in the national bridge inventory -- a problem that could pose a safety hazard.
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