I live in Iowa. This is a rural state. We have nearly 25,000 bridges spanning at least 20 feet that carry highway traffic. Their average age is 42 years. Nearly 22% are rated structurally deficient by the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) 2010 National Bridge Inventory (NBI).
NBI data is released annually and provides a significant level of detail on the condition of over 700,000 bridges nationwide. Bridges are inspected every two years, unless they’re in “very good” condition (four years) or “structurally deficient” (every year.) This data was released in February 2011.
Click on the map to view the linked online version. There, you can click on your state and see the statistics such as these for Iowa. I find the data disturbing.
Despite billions of dollars in annual federal, state and local funds directed toward the maintenance of existing bridges, 69,223 bridges – more than 11 percent of total highway bridges in the U.S. – are classified as “structurally deficient,” according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Structurally deficient bridges require significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement.
Come below the orange traffic interchange for more information.
You can also get a look at the individual bridges within a 10 mile radius of your location using this linked picture. The map relies on the latitude and longitude provided by states. Inaccurate coordinates may be present. Many bridges may not appear in the proper location. While geolocation data (coordinates on the map) may be wrong, the information in the right hand box when you have clicked on a bridge is generally reliable.
Presentation of the Data
Data from the NBI report has been compiled into these interactives by the organization Transportation for America. They decribe themselves as...
A broad coalition of housing, business, environmental, public health, transportation, equitable development, and other organizations. We’re all seeking to align our national, state, and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development.They stress that our national transportation policy has barely changed since the 1950s. Today, is a very different world. The interstates have been built. Americans are paying higher gas prices. People are plagued with costly commutes and congestion. Bridges are crumbling. Population is more urban. We are breathing dirty air. Our climate is threatened. Many older, younger and rural Americans are stranded with antiquated, unsafe, and inadequate transportation.
Transportation for America offers a set of objectives and targets for the future.
Current Status of the Transportation Bill
Here are quotes from an entry on the T4 America website blog of June 29, 2012 by Stephen Lee Davis.
More than 1,000 days after the last transportation bill expired, Congress finally voted to approve a new transportation bill just moments ago. Unfortunately for those hoping for a bold step into the future, this bill represents a definite step backwards, the last gasp of an outdated 20th century program.This is a two year transportation bill. Long range planning for the improvements to our bridges calls for a more comprehensive approach than a short duration bill. The problem of our crumbling infrastructure will not go away. We have already had one major disaster with the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis in 2007. There were 4 dead, 79 injured, and 20 missing in the immediate aftermath.
The Senate had done the hard work of carefully crafting a forward-looking, bipartisan bill that passed with an overwhelming majority.
Unfortunately, this final bill moves closer to the House’s disastrous HR7, which was too contentious and unpopular to garner enough votes to pass. This final negotiated bill has been called a “compromise,” but it’s really a substantial capitulation in the face of threats by the House to include provisions with no relevance to the transportation bill — the Keystone XL pipeline, regulation of coal ash and others.
As a result of this “compromise,” the bill dedicates zero dollars to repairing our roads and bridges, cuts the amount of money that cities and local governments would have received, makes a drastic cut in the money available to prevent the deaths of people walking or biking, and ensures that you have less input and control over major projects that affect you and the quality of your community.
Despite record demand for public transportation service, this deal cut the emergency provisions to preserve existing transit service, does little to expand that service and actually removed the small provision equalizing the tax benefit for transit and parking.
What Can You Do?
Take a few moments to explore the interactive map of your state linked at the top of this diary. Click on it. Click on your state. Get a sense of how your state is dealing with bridge safety and maintenance.
Click on the linked image below the squiggle. Enter your home town. See where the reported bridges are within a 10 mile radius. Are you driving over any of these structurally deficient bridges.
Take some time to contact your senator and representative. Let them know how you feel about the importance of having safe bridges in your community. Let them know if you think this issue deserves a longer term and more comprehensive approach in the future.