Cars, trucks and school buses cross Georgia’s 835 structurally compromised bridges more than 2 million times every day, according to an analysis of the 2013 National Bridge Inventory database released this month by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The problem could get a lot worse, the chief economist for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) says, as states across the nation face a slowdown in reimbursements for already approved federal-aid highway projects in August. Without congressional action, Dr. Alison Premo Black says there will be no Highway Trust Fund support for any new road, bridge or public transportation projects in any state during FY 2015, which begins Oct. 1.
“Letting the Highway Trust Fund investment dry up would have a devastating impact on bridge repairs,” Black said, noting the trust fund supports an average $119.2 million annually in Georgia bridge work. “It would set back bridge improvements for years.”
“The bridge problem sits squarely on the backs of our elected officials,” Black added. “The state transportation department can’t just wave a magic wand and make the problem go away. It takes committed investment by our legislators. Members of Congress need to come to grips with that. Some of our most heavily travelled bridges were built in the 1930s. Most are more than 40 years old.”
Bridge decks and support structures are regularly inspected by the state transportation departments for deterioration and are rated on a scale of zero to nine—nine being “excellent” condition. A bridge is classified as structurally deficient and in need of repair if its overall rating is four or below.