More than one-third of Maine’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, with bridge conditions projected to worsen in the future if additional funding is not made available, according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.- based national transportation organization.
The TRIP report, “Preserving Maine’s Bridges: The Condition and Funding Needs of Maine’s Bridge System” finds that 15 percent of Maine’s state and locally maintained bridges are structurally deficient, which means there is significant deterioration of the bridge supports or other major components.
Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight vehicles or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency service vehicles. In Southern Maine, 10 percent of bridges are structurally deficient. Eighteen percent of Maine’s bridges are functionally obsolete, meaning they no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment. In Southern Maine, 22 percent of bridges are functionally obsolete.
“Maine’s transportation system is the cornerstone of the state’s economy,” said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “Every business in Maine depends on it, as do our citizens. It is critical that we increase the level of investment in our bridges, first and foremost for the safety of the traveling public, but also for the many businesses across Maine that depend on our system to ship their products to market. The TRIP report tells us what MaineDOT engineers have also told us: we need to invest more in our bridges in order to ensure safety and ensure that Maine is competitive.”
“Maine’s transportation network is at the heart of our financial success as a state,” said Mayor Linda Cohen, City of South Portland. “Moving people and goods requires strong roads, bridges, and port systems. This transportation infrastructure provides Mainers with the opportunity to work, live, and play in the place we call home. In my home city of South Portland, our bridges tie together an interconnected local system of land, air, and sea. It is critically important to continue improving the condition of our infrastructure and building a stronger future for Maine.”
MaineDOT’s current annual bridge funding of $70 million per year is the same level of annual investment from 2007 to 2009. The state’s bridge funding increased to an average of $112 million per year from 2009 to 2013 as a result of the authorization of $160 million in TransCap bonds.
According to a recent MaineDOT report, under current funding levels the share of the state’s bridges in poor condition would triple by 2021, from 11 percent to 33 percent. An annual bridge investment of $140 million is needed to maintain the state’s bridges in their current condition, while an annual investment of $217 million would be needed to maintain the entire bridge system and substantially meet service, condition and safety goals.
“Maine’s bridge conditions are only going to get worse if greater funding is not made available,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Additional, consistent funding must be provided to improve the condition of Maine’s bridges, which are a vital part of the state’s transportation network and critical to economic growth and quality of life.”