Road builders promote bridge repair for economic recovery

An annual bridge repair survey by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) should be used to focus attention on highway infrastructure funding once policymakers begin digging out from the effects of COVID-19, according to the group.

ARTBA’s 2020 report, released Monday, estimates that 231,000 bridges in the U.S. — 37% of all U.S. bridges — need major repairs or should be replaced at a cost of nearly $164 billion, based on an analysis of 2019 data compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The report also revealed that for the third straight year, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Iowa top ARTBA’s list as the states with the most structurally deficient bridges as a percent of total bridges in each state.

“Economic recovery from coronavirus begins with strategic road and bridge improvements,” said ARTBA President Dave Bauer in a statement. “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. The sooner we invest in robust new transportation improvements the sooner the American people will experience the economic benefits.”

In March a coalition of 31 associations and labor unions wrote to leaders in Congress asserting that recovering from COVID-19 provides an incentive to reauthorize the FAST Act surface transportation bill.

President Donald Trump said he’s willing to use a COVID-19 recovery package to jump-start infrastructure investment.

“We’ve learned a lot and we have tremendous stimulus now,” Trump said during a press conference last Wednesday. “And we’re going for more. Hopefully, we’ll be doing an infrastructure bill so we can rebuild our roads and highways and bridges and tunnels and all of the things that we should be doing for our country. I think we have a chance to be stronger than ever before.”

According to ARTBA, more than 46,000 bridges are rated in poor condition and classified as “structurally deficient,” and a total of 81,000 bridges should be replaced.

While the number of structurally deficient bridges declined by 900 compared to data compiled in 2018, “at the current pace, it would take more than 50 years to repair America’s structurally deficient bridges,” said ARTBA Chief Economist Alison Premo Black. “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.”

The most traveled structurally deficient bridges are on parts of Route 101 and Interstates 405 and 5 in California, where total daily crossings are as high as 289,000 per day, according to the report. Prominent structurally deficient bridges noted in the 2020 report include:

  • Brooklyn Bridge (New York)
  • Theodore Roosevelt Bridge (Washington, D.C.)
  • San Mateo-Hayward Bridge (California)
  • Robert S. Maestri Bridge (Louisiana)
  • Albemarle Sound Bridge and Lindsay C. Warren Bridge (North Carolina)
  • Pensacola Bay Bridge (Florida)
  • Vicksburg Bridge (Mississippi)
  • Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge (Washington state)