Nearly 7% of US bridges in poor condition

Dive Brief:

  • Thirty-six percent of all U.S. bridges, more than 222,000 spans, require major repair work or replacement, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s 2023 analysis of the U.S. DOT’s National Bridge Inventory database. 
  • Based on average cost data that states submitted to the DOT, ARTBA estimates it would cost over $319 billion to make all needed repairs. By contrast, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act designates $40 billion in federal money over five years for bridge repairs and replacement.
  • Bridges newly rated in poor condition this year include I-345 over I-30 and US 75 Dart Rail in Dallas, the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge in Seattle and the Route I‐678 span over Flushing Bay Promenade in New York City.

Dive Insight:

Happily, there are 560 fewer bridges in poor condition than last year. Over the past five years, the share of bridges in fair condition has continued to grow as the percentage of spans in poor or good condition declined. Thanks to increased federal investment, there is more money available to address these gaps — but many states are not taking full advantage, ARTBA’s analysis showed.

States currently have access to $10.6 billion in IIJA Bridge Formula Program funds to help make needed repairs, and another $15.9 billion will be available in the next three years. These funds have helped support over 2,060 bridge projects in the construction and repair pipeline, according to the ARTBA report. Another new IIJA bridge program, the Bridge Investment Program, has an additional $12.5 billion for projects that will be awarded through 2026.     

However, as the end of fiscal year 2023 approaches on Sept. 30, states have committed $3.2 billion — just 30% — of available bridge formula funds to 2,060 projects, with $7.4 billion still coming, according to ARTBA. Only eight states have committed more than two-thirds of their bridge formula funding to specific projects, while 31 states have committed less than a third of available money as of June 30.

In 2023, nearly half of all U.S. bridges — 48.9% — were in fair condition, while bridges in poor condition make up 6.8% of the overall inventory.  

Other bridges newly rated in poor condition this year include:

  • NC 58 over the Intracoastal Waterway in North Carolina.
  • I‐84 White Salmon over the Columbia River in Oregon.
  • State Route 51 Northbound in Sacramento, California.
  • LA 27 over the Intercoastal Waterway in Gibbstown, Louisiana.
  • US 21 Southbound over Beaufort River in South Carolina.
  • PR 53 over Grand De Patillas River in Puerto Rico. 
  • SH 146 over Clear Creek and Shipyard Drive in Texas.

In an interview with Scripps News, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said there has not been sufficient funding for bridge repairs for many administrations, which has created a massive backlog.

“We’re taking historically large steps, but the work of reversing probably 40, 50 years of degradation or underinvestment is going to be more than a couple of years’ work,” said Buttigieg. “The important thing is right now we are moving it in the right direction so that instead of getting worse, it’s getting better.”

A 2022 Congressional Research Service report said it would take 20 years to eliminate the backlog of ailing bridges — but only if Congress maintained high funding levels. 

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