More than 220,000 U.S. bridges need major repair work or should be replaced, according to an American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) analysis of the just released U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2020 National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database. That figure represents 36%, or more than one-third, of all U.S. bridges.
If placed end-to-end, the length of these bridges would stretch more than 6,000 miles – long enough to travel across the country from Atlanta to Los Angeles, and continue up to Deadhorse, Alaska, the furthest point north on the state’s highway system.
ARTBA finds that while the number of structurally deficient (SD) bridges declined 2.5% last year to 45,000, the number of bridges falling into fair condition grew more than 3,600 to almost 295,000.
At the current pace, it would take 40 years to repair the current backlog of SD bridges.
“The current 40-year timeline to repair bridges in poor condition is an unacceptable outcome for the American motoring public,” said ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, who led the team conducting the analysis. “The bridge conditions report highlights key national infrastructure challenges and underscores the need for congressional action this year on a robust multi-year transportation investment bill.”
Of the 45,000 SD bridges, nearly 11,200 are in “serious” or worse condition. This includes 1,668 that are in “critical” condition, 440 that are in “imminent” failure, and 970 that are in “failed” condition and are out of service. The states with the most serious or worse bridge conditions are Iowa (1,762 bridges), Oklahoma (922), Illinois (764), Pennsylvania (728), Missouri (700), and Louisiana (638).
American drivers cross these SD structures more than 171 million times daily. The estimated cost to repair them is $41.8 billion, based on average cost data published by the U.S. DOT.
Of the 220,000 bridges needing repair, state and local government say that 79,500 bridges should be replaced totally, according to Black. Nearly one-third of Interstate highway bridges (17,643 spans) have identified repair needs.