Nearly 10% Of U.S., Wisconsin Bridges Deficient
Almost 10 percent of U.S. bridges are “structurally deficient,” according to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
Wisconsin’s bridges are no exception.
The backlog of bridge rehabilitation tops $123 billion in the U.S., according to the ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report card, which gave the nation’s bridges a C+.
It would take more than 20 years to replace or repair the bridges, according to Dr. Alison Premo Black, American Road and Transportation Builders Association chief economist.
Of the 614,387 bridges in the country, 40 percent are 50 years or older. The average age is 43 years.
As of 2016, 9.1 percent of all bridges are considered “structurally deficient,” which means that while they’re not unsafe now, they could become unsafe. To be structurally deficient, one or more key elements (such as the deck, superstructure or substructure), must be in “poor” condition. Bridges are rated on a scale of zero to nine. Nine is considered “excellent.” Bridges at four or below are deficient.
ARTBA reports that of the 56,000 deficient bridges, 1,900 are on the Interstate Highway System. ASCE estimates that more than 188 million trips are taken each day across a deficient bridge.
In Wisconsin, nine percent of the state’s 14,230 bridges are deficient—down 3.9 percent from last year. Six percent of the state’s bridges are classified as functionally obsolete, which means they do not adhere to current design standards.
To raise the grade, ASCE recommends more funding for bridges, including raising the federal motor fuels tax. It also recommends bridge owners consider maintenance costs across a bridge’s lifecycle to make better design decisions, while prioritizing rehabilitation.
ASCE’s report also notes that new technologies in bridge repair have helped engineers build bridges to be more durable. Prefabricated bridge parts, for example, reduce the amount of time traffic is disrupted during a repair.