Average age of bridges continues to increase

Posted on 02/02/2017 by David Radke

Truck on bridge

A new study from Infrastructure Data Systems says the average American bridge is 36 years old.

The U.S. is approaching a point where large numbers of structurally deficient bridges will need to be repaired in the next 20 to 30 years, Fleet Owner reported. If these bridges aren't repaired, the trucking industry will suffer: Poor road conditions will make it nearly impossible for fleets to manage delivery schedules - not to mention, traffic congestion and lane closures will only become more common.

The states with the highest number of faulty are:

  • Iowa (4,931 bridges).
  • Pennsylvania (4,410).
  • Oklahoma (3,414).
  • Missouri (3,417).
  • Nebraska (2,326).

States are making an effort to repair bridges

The good news is that the number of bridges in poor condition has steadily declined over the last 24 years. In 1992, that number was 80,461, and in 2016 that number dropped to 75,703. As of last year, IDS stated just under 10 percent of bridges are structurally deficient.

States with the largest reduction in structurally deficient bridges include:

  • New York (Only 11 percent of bridge inventory is considered unsatisfactory).
  • Missouri (27 percent).
  • Mississippi (21 percent).
  • Oklahoma (20 percent).

However, IDS President Dr. Mahmoud Halfway stated roughly 1 in 5 bridges will need some type of improvement in the near future.

"Roughly 1 in 5 bridges will need some type of improvement."

But repairing crumbling bridges is easier said than done. Current funding levels won't be sufficient to keep up with the number of aging bridges that will require repairs in the future.

"To sustain past progress, agencies will need to get aggressive in implementing new efficiencies and introduce innovation in bridge preservation, programming, and project delivery," said Halfway.

A large-scale infrastructure plan from the federal government could provide the resources to repair bridges. While such a plan is on the Trump administration's radar, specifics haven't been released. But it's clear that America's vital infrastructure needs to be fixed before road conditions worsen.

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