Nearly 231,000 U.S. bridges need major repair work or should be replaced, according to an American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) analysis of the just-released U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2019 National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database.
That figure represents 37 percent, or more than a third, of all U.S. bridges.
If placed end-to-end, the length of these bridges would stretch over 6,300 miles—long enough to make a round trip across the country from New York City to Los Angeles and back again to Chicago. American drivers cross these bridges 1.5 billion times per day – representing one-third of all daily bridge crossings, according to the data.
More than 46,000 of those bridges are “structurally deficient” and in poor condition. They are crossed 178 million times a day.
An additional 81,000 bridges should be replaced, says ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, who led the team conducting the analysis. One-third of Interstate highway bridges (18,177 spans) have identified repair needs.
The report comes as Congress and the Trump administration continue working on measures to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. ARTBA says once policymakers shift from a rescue focus to economic recovery, robust transportation infrastructure investments have comprehensive benefits.
“Economic recovery from coronavirus begins with strategic road and bridge improvements,” ARTBA President Dave Bauer says. “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.”
Bauer notes the transportation construction industry is not seeking federal assistance, but it should be part of the solution. He says the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee’s July 2019 unanimously approved five-year highway reauthorization bill should be the starting point for discussions.
“The sooner we invest in robust new transportation improvements the sooner the American people will experience the economic benefits,” Bauer says.
ARTBA estimates the cost to make the identified repairs for all 231,000 bridges in the U.S. at nearly $164 billion, based on average cost data published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA.)
The number of structurally deficient bridges declined by 900 compared to 2018.
“At the current pace, it would take more than 50 years to repair America’s structurally deficient bridges,” Black, the chief economist, says. “Our bridge network is underfunded and should be modernized. State and the local government just haven’t been given the necessary financial resources to fully address the problem.”
Structurally Deficient Bridges
Notable structurally deficient bridges include New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge; Washington, D.C.’s Theodore Roosevelt bridge; the San Mateo-Hayward bridge crossing San Francisco Bay – the longest bridge in California; Florida’s Pensacola Bay Bridge; and the Vicksburg Bridge in Mississippi.
State and congressional district-specific information is available at artbabridgereport.org. Established in 1902, the Washington, D.C.-based ARTBA advocates for strong investment in transportation to meet the demand for safe and efficient travel.