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Rhode Island, West Virginia and Iowa stay atop ARTBA “worst bridge” list

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Trucks may be more likely to cross a “structurally deficient” bridge while traveling in Rhode Island than in any other state in the country, according to a recent analysis of government data.

Combing through U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2018 bridge inventory database, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) found that Rhode Island, along with West Virginia and Iowa, have the most structurally deficient bridges as a percent of total bridges within each state, at 23 percent, 19.8 percent, and 19.3 percent, respectively. They were the same three states that topped the list in 2017.

Iowa was also among the top three states with the largest overall number of deficient bridges, at 4,675, followed by Pennsylvania (3,770) and Oklahoma (2,540). Those states were at the top of that category last year as well.

ARTBA’s analysis revealed that the pace of bridge repair is the slowest since it began compiling the report five years ago, dropping by just 1 percent last year.

“At the current pace, it would take more than 80 years to replace or repair the nation’s structurally deficient bridges,” said ARTBA chief economist Alison Premo Black. “America’s bridge network is outdated, underfunded and in urgent need of modernization. State and local governments just haven’t been given the necessary resources to get the job done.”

The report is monitored closely by the trucking industry because the country’s 48,000-mile Interstate Highway System carries approximately 75 percent of the nation’s heavy truck traffic. It also comes as lawmakers in Washington, D.C. negotiate for a reauthorization of the surface transportation legislation – the FAST Act – and ways to pay for it, including raising the gas tax to keep the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent.

ARTBA pointed out that the HTF is the source of more than half of highway and bridge capital investments made annually, on average, by state transportation departments. States could see a 40 percent cut in federal investment, beginning in 2021, if Congress doesn’t pass a surface transportation package, the group noted.

“Since the 2016 election, leaders on both sides of the aisle have regularly cited upgrading America’s infrastructure as an area for common ground. This report makes clear that it’s about time Congress and the Trump administration stop talking and start solving this national problem,” Bauer said.

ARTBA estimated the cost to repair, rehabilitate or replace 235,000 bridges in the country that need those kinds of upgrades at $171 billion, based on federal costing data.

The government classifies a bridge as “structurally deficient” depending on the condition of its deck, superstructure, substructure and culverts, and bridge ratings are updated as inspections are completed.

Nearly 88 percent of the bridges classified as structurally deficient in 2018 had the same rating in 2017, ARTBA found, and 5,660 bridges were newly classified as structurally deficient in 2018. There were 6,229 bridges found to be structurally deficient in 2017 that were removed from that category in 2018, for an overall net decline of 567.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.