Better Bridges 2010 Bridge Inventory
But not all agencies are being troubled by environmental factors. In fact, the Florida DOT says restrictions haven’t had any impact on how well it is able to replace or repair a bridge.
The biggest problem across the country is lack of funds
Nearly all the state DOTs surveyed cited funding availability the greatest challenge in lowering their rate of deficient bridges. Heavy traffic, routing traffic during work on the structure and scour also came in at the top end of the list.
With the lack of a SAFETEA-LU reauthorization leaving the transportation construction industry in limbo for funding, many state agencies are apprehensive when it comes to planning for major projects. American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA)’s “stimulus” funds have provided “a good momentum for addressing deficient bridge needs,” says Anwar Ahmad, assistant bridge engineer with the Virginia DOT (VDOT). “These funds were used to refund or rehabilitate 119 deficient structures,” he says, adding that about 20 percent of the bridge work was from ARRA funds.
What’s more, Ahmad notes, VDOT “fortunately has dedicated significant resources to [its] bridge program in the last few years” so insufficient funding shouldn’t restrict important work in the coming year. “The current funding level should be adequate for the delivery of the program this coming year.”
In Texas, which has the most bridges in the nation, 9,148 — or 18 percent — are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The Texas State DOT (TxDOT) says it should be able to lower this rate in the coming year. “Replacement priority is to replace ‘50’ [year-old] bridges first,” explains Alan Kowalik, TxDOT’s bridge inspection engineer. The state also has an “equivalent match” program to assist cities and counties with replacing bridges, he says. The Stimulus has also kicked in about 18 percent of funding throughout the past two years to help with the state’s bridge repair and replacement plans.
The Nebraska Department of Roads has also benefitted from ARRA, but the state has also established a dedicated fund to address high-priority bridges, which Steve Anderson, with the agency’s Bridge Division, says should help lower the state’s rate of deficient bridges. However, not surprisingly, Anderson says, “[we] always have more needs than funds.”
In 2009, ARRA funded about 32 percent of Pennsylvania’s bridge work. This year, the stimulus only funded about 4 percent, according to PennDOT. In Nevada, the Stimulus has supplemented zero percent of the state’s work this year, according to David Severns, assistant chief structures engineer with the Nevada Department Transportation (NDOT). But this hasn’t affected the state’s ability to fund important work. Severns says “continued use of federal Highway Bridge Program (HBP) funds” will allow the state to lower its rate of deficient bridges. In fact, the state has been working on one of the biggest bridge projects in the nation — the Hoover Dam Bypass project.
Tennessee, with 19,601 bridges — 3,414 of them, or 17 percent rated as SD/FO — was able to build or replace 81 bridges (48 local, 33 state bridges) with ARRA funds. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TennDOT) says that insufficient funding is still the biggest challenge in lowering the state’s rate of deficient bridges.
Seger, with TennDOT’s Bridge Inspection and Repair Office, says his agency doesn’t anticipate insufficient funds restricting important work in the coming year. In fact, TennDOT is currently in year two of a three-year program to retire about 200 structurally deficient bridges. But he does point out that when states get federal money for bridges, they should “use it for bridges. Do not allow bridge funds to be diverted to other things.”
Terry Udland, a bridge engineer with the North Dakota Department of Transportation, says that the percentage of work that came from the stimulus this past year was “minimal.” North Dakota has a combined rate of 21 percent of bridges that are SD/FO (out of 4,274 total bridges, 891 are SD/FO), but Udland notes that the state expects to lower its rate of deficient bridges in the coming year by replacing or overlaying deficient decks and through overall bridge replacements.
Maryland bridge authorities report that the state received a “modest amount” of ARRA funding for bridges, which it in turn applied to replacing, repairing or painting about 35 bridges.
The Stimulus also modestly helped the Oklahoma DOT (ODOT), which says that Stimulus money accounted for about 16 percent of its work. “It has had a very positive impact on bridge work in the state,” said Oklahoma’s survey respondent. The funds have allowed the re-decking of more than 40 bridges on I-244 in Tulsa, more commonly known as part of the Inner Dispersal Loop. “Due to many years of neglect, ODOT has fallen behind in the bridge programs,” according to the state agency. “In recent years, Oklahoma has made tremendous progress in continued and consistent funding, which is critical to improve bridge conditions.” An example of this progress is ODOT’s eight-year construction work plan that has allocated $361.3 million for bridge work in federal fiscal year 2011.
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