The number of structurally deficient bridges in 2018 fell at the slowest pace in five years, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
Nearly 235,000 U.S. bridges — 38 percent — need repair, rehabilitation or replacement, which was just a 1 percent decrease from 2017, according to analysis of the Transportation Department’s 2018 National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).
The NBI data found 47,052 of the country’s 616,087 bridges were rated “structurally deficient,” in which one of a bridge’s key structural elements — the deck, superstructure, substructure or culverts — are rated in poor or worse condition. About 88 percent of the bridges that were classified as structurally deficient in 2018 were in the same category in 2017, ARTBA’s data found.
The number of structurally deficient bridges fell by 567 in 2018, with 5,660 bridges being newly classified as structurally deficient and 6,229 being removed from the classification. Between 2014 and 2017, however, the number fell by an average of 1,700 bridges each year, according to ARTBA’s 2019 Bridge Report.
“Although the number of structurally deficient bridges is down compared to 2017, the pace of improvement has slowed compared to the last five years,” the report said. “At this rate, it would take over 80 years to make the significant repairs needed on these structures.”
The association, which advocates for infrastructure investment, estimated the cost to repair the 235,000 bridges is nearly $171 billion.
Iowa has the largest number of structurally deficient bridges (4,675) and Rhode Island has the high percentage of structurally deficient bridges in its bridge inventory (23 percent), the analysis found.
Infrastructure investment has been a common topic in Washington D.C. this year. Last week, Treasury Secretary Elaine Chao told the Senate “nothing is off the table” in regards to increasing the gas tax or the charge on airplane tickets.
The federal gas tax has remained stagnant at 18.4 cents per gallon for gas and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel without an index for inflation since 1993. Congressman Peter Defazio, D-Ore., who has also been working on an infrastructure package, has called for an increase in the gas tax as a short-term bridge until a vehicle miles traveled program is implemented.
Presidential hopeful Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also laid out a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that would be her “top budget priority” should she be elected in 2020.