More than one-third of U.S. bridges are in disrepair, infrastructure group says

Fixing the bridges could help the economy recover after coronavirus, the group says.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

Almost 231,000 American bridges — more than a third of the nation's bridges — need repair or should be completely replaced, according to analysis of federal data by an infrastructure investment advocacy group.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association says that of those bridges in disrepair, 81,000 bridges should be replaced and more than 46,000 are "structurally deficient” and in poor condition, according to its analysis of the newly released 2019 National Bridge Inventory database from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

ARTBA estimates that the cost to repair all of the bridges is nearly $164 billion and at the current pace of repair, the construction would take more than half a century.

“Our bridge network is underfunded and should be modernized. State and local government just haven’t been given the necessary financial resources to fully address the problem," ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, who led the team conducting the analysis, said in a statement.

ARTBA President Dave Bauer said that federal assistance "should be part of the solution," the association's statement said.

He added that a focus on infrastructure could help the country dig out from the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.

“Economic recovery from coronavirus begins with strategic road and bridge improvements," Bauer said. “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.”

More than 69,500 bridges are not operating at their full capacity, or "posted for load," which means there are weight restrictions on them so as not to stress their structures.

Notable bridges deemed structurally deficient are New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge, Washington, D.C.’s Theodore Roosevelt bridge and the San Mateo-Hayward bridge crossing San Francisco Bay.

With 22 percent of its bridges deemed structurally deficient, Rhode Island has the highest percentage in the country.

The number of structurally deficient bridges decreased by 900 between 2018 and 2019.