Fourteen percent of bridges statewide and nine percent of bridges in southern Maine are structurally deficient according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation organization. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components.
The TRIP report, “Preserving Maine’s Bridges: The Condition and Funding Needs of Maine’s Aging Bridge System,” finds that Maine has the ninth highest rate of structurally deficient bridges in the nation. In southern Maine, which includes Cumberland and York counties, 53 of the 566 bridges (20 ft. or longer) are structurally deficient. Bridges that are structurally deficient may be posted for lower weight limits or closed if their condition warrants such action. Deteriorated bridges can have a significant impact on daily life. Restrictions on vehicle weight may cause many vehicles – especially emergency vehicles, commercial trucks, school buses and farm equipment – to use alternate routes to avoid weight-restricted bridges. Redirected trips also lengthen travel time, waste fuel and reduce the efficiency of the local economy.
MaineDOT’s current funding for state bridge repairs is $105 annually, but a 2014 report found that the state should be spending $140 million annually to maintain bridges in their current condition and $217 million annually to make significant progress in improving the condition of the state’s bridges. Early findings from an updated bridge analysis being conducted by MaineDOT indicate that the annual cost to maintain the state’s bridges in their current condition has increased significantly from the 2014 estimate.
A significant number of Maine’s bridges were built from the 1950s through the 1970s and have surpassed or are approaching 50 years old, which is typically the intended design life for bridges built during this era. The average age of Maine’s bridges is 52 years. The cost of repairing and preserving bridges increases as they age and as they reach the end of their intended design life.
“Maine’s businesses and employers alike rely on transportation systems to connect them to their workforce and to connect that workforce with suppliers and customers around the state and around the globe,” said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “Ensuring that our bridges continue to be safe, and addressing the backlog of needs in roads, bridges and all transportation infrastructure is critical to growing our economy. We can and we must do better to make transportation funding a higher priority for our state.”