Work That Needs Doing: Fixing Our Aging Bridges

Derek Pugh

Every day, Americans take more than 260 million trips over structurally deficient bridges to visit friends and family, pick up their children from school, and go to work, according to a new report by Transportation for America. And that aspect of America’s crumbling infrastructure is putting our economy and lives at risk.

The report, “The Fix We’re In For: The State of Our Nation’s Bridges 2013,” finds that one in nine – or more than 66,000 — of our nation’s bridges are structurally deficient and in desperate need of repair or replacement. This figure does not include the nearly 20,000 bridges that are deemed to be fracture-critical, like the Skagit River Bridge that collapsed less than a month ago. As our government’s failure to act continues, our aging infrastructure will only create more unsafe conditions across the country.

Bridges are generally built to last 50 years before needing major overhaul or replacement, with the average age of all U.S. bridges being 43 and structurally deficient ones 65. If inaction continues, within 10 years one in four (170,000) of our bridges will be deemed deficient.

Last year Congress eliminated dedicated funds for bridge repair as it began embracing budget austerity. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that it will cost $76 billion to fix our current deficient bridges and $20.5 billion annually to eliminate the bridge backlog by 2028. However, only $12.8 billion is currently being spent annually. These costs will also continue to escalate if nothing is done.

America’s infrastructure was once envied by all and attracted businesses from across the world. Now, it has fallen into decay — being graded a D+ on the American Society of Civil Engineers annual report card. Fixing our infrastructure should not be viewed as a burden, but as a chance to strengthen our country and rebuild our economy. Repairing or refurbishing the 1,562 miles of structurally deficient bridges would provide good-paying jobs for millions of struggling Americans.

Let’s be clear here: Our government will have to fix these bridges eventually. Choosing to wait, rather than act now, puts our economy and lives at risk and increases our budget deficit down the road; the price of inaction is staggering. With interest rates at historic lows and unemployment still high, funding infrastructure projects should be a no-brainer.

Click here to find structurally deficient bridges in your area.

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