Better Bridges 2012 Bridge Inventory
Better Roads Staff
Getting Better all the Time
By Tina Grady Barbaccia
They aren’t numbers to throw a party for yet, but once again, the number of structurally deficient (SD) or functionally obsolete (FO) bridges in America has fallen.
Our propreitary 2012 Bridge Inventory survey of 602,154 bridges shows 22.5 percent in the SD/FO categories, down from 22.7 percent in last year’s survey, 23.3 percent in our 2010 survey, 23.7 pecent in 2009 and 24.3 percent in 2008.
Reponses show 20.1 percent SD/FO bridges among highway and Interstate bridges (down from 20.3 percent last year). Among city and county bridges 24.8 percent fall into the SD/FO category compared to 25 percent in 2011, although the total number of city/country SD/FO bridges has actually fallen (but so has the overall total surveyed).
Pennsylvania has the highest total number of combined (Interstate/highway and city/county) SD/FO bridges (9,095) ahead of Texas (8,752) and Oklahoma (6,547).
Washington, D.C., has the highest percentage of total combined SD/FO bridges at 55 percent, followed by Rhode Island with 49 percent and Pennsylvania with 40 percent.
Arizona leads the good news categories with the lowest percentage of combined SD/FO bridges at 10 percent followed by Nevada at 11 percent and Utah at 13 percent.
But amid cautious optimism arising from this improvement comes word from states that the new two-year, $105 billion, surface transportation legislation, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), which has been faintly praised as a mini-savior for America’s transportation infrastructure, still leaves us with a lack of adequate funds, now and in the foreseeable future, and that shortfall is still a major roadblock to a significant decrease in SD/FO numbers.
John Orbistondo, engineering assistant for the Alaska Department of Transportation, says funding availability remains the state’s greatest challenge to lowering its rate of deficient bridges and the new transportation bill isn’t going to make much difference. “Having MAP-21 does no favor for bridges except the NHS [National Highway System] focus,” Orbistondo notes in his survey answers. “[It] leaves other bridges underfunded.”
Gary Doerr, bridge management with the North Dakota State Highway Department, also says funding availability is one of the great challenges to lowering the state’s rate of deficient bridges as is “on-local systems.” Although Doerr says the state does expect to lower its rate of deficient bridges this year through “replacements and rehabs,” 10 bridges, all local, have been closed this year because of structural failure or collapse. In the last five years, that number is 120 local bridges. Doerr also points out that MAP-21 won’t make a difference with his agency’s ability to repair bridges. “A two-year bill does not provide the long-term planning avenue,” he says.
But state agencies are not allowing the lukewarmth of MAP-21 derail them.
For example, Mills Gotcher, Oklahoma Department of Transportation media and public relations representative, tells Better Roads that although funding availability remains the state’s greatest challenge in lowering bridge deficiency rates, MAP-21 “offers more funding flexibility and stability to deliver our bridge program. The emphasis on bridge preservation has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the condition of the on-system bridges.”
In fact, Oklahoma has embarked on an ambitious journey that started in 2002 with a $5.5 billion highway and bridge improvement program that will address all of Oklahoma’s deficient bridges by the end of 2020, following the Sept.10 approval by the Oklahoma Transportation Commission of the Federal Fiscal Year 2013 eight-year construction work plan. The program includes “all on-system known SD bridges be addressed by 2020,” Gotcher says. “A significant portion of these bridges are included for the coming year.”
In the past year, one bridge has been closed in Oklahoma because of structural failure or collapse and four have been closed in the last five years. All increased funding proposed by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin’s “Bridge Improvement and Turnpike Modernization Plan,” which was approved by the state legislature in May and signed by Fallin, means the eight-year plan includes the replacement or rehabilitation of the remaining 634 SD highway bridges. The plan includes 2,030 total projects and 951 bridge replacement or major rehabilitation projects.
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