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ASCE Deems Nearly One In 10 U.S. Bridges Structurally Deficient, Issues C-Plus Rating

The United States hasn’t had a major bridge collapse in years, but that doesn’t mean Americans shouldn’t be worried.

Of the 614,387 bridges supporting travel last year, 56,007 have been deemed structurally deficient by the American Society of Civil Engineers. In its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card released Thursday, ASCE said those particular bridges were traversed 188 million times daily.

Structurally deficient bridges are not unsafe but, if left unfixed, have the potential to become so, and as of yet, the United States doesn’t have the resources to make improvements.

An Expensive Venture

“Despite the recent increases in spending, investments in the country’s bridges are insufficient,” ASCE said.

The backlog of bridge restoration alone is priced around $123 billion, and future surface transportation maintenance requires $1.1 trillion above the already-secured $941 billion. That’s about $100 billion more than the Trump Administration proposed for its entire infrastructure plan.

Improvements are presently stalled by a yet-unpassed spending bill, which has delayed distribution of funds allocated by the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

To bolster the capacity for bridge spending, ASCE recommended a hike in the federal motor fuels tax contributing to the diminished Highway Trust Fund.

Subtle Improvements

American bridges maintained a C-plus rating for the second consecutive ASCE report card, but that doesn’t mean nothing’s been done.

In recent years, all levels of government have prioritized bridge rehabilitation, and funding has generally accelerated.

In 2012, the federal government spent $6 billion on bridge projects, while state and local communities contributed an additional $11.5 billion. The sum amounted to a 52-percent increase over 2006 bridge spending. In 2009 and 2010, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided additional funding prompting an $18-billion investment peak.

Improvements were made, but the United States cannot keep up with continued maintenance requirements.

“While the number of bridges that are in such poor condition as to be considered structurally deficient is decreasing, the average age of America’s bridges keeps going up and many of the nation’s bridges are approaching the end of their design life,” ASCE reported.

Nearly 40 percent have spanned the sky longer than 50 years, and the average bridge has supported travel for 43.

An Overall Fail

Over the last four years, Americans relied on thousands of other structures that averaged a D-plus rating — the same overall score given in the ASCE’s 2013 assessment.

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