Report: 21% of R.I. bridges are ‘structurally deficient’
RHODE ISLAND HAD THE FOURTH largest percentage of "structurally deficient" bridges in the United States, with 20.7 percent of the Ocean States bridges described as such in a report by Transportation for America.
WASHINGTON – Despite improvements in recent decades, 11 percent of the country’s bridges are structurally deficient and momentum to repair them is slowing, with Rhode Island ranked among the worst in the nation, according to a new report released this week from lobbying organization Transportation for America.
Drawing on data from the National Bridge Inventory, the report found that 66,405 of the nation’s nearly 605,000 bridges are in need of major repairs or structural changes. Rhode Island ranked fourth-worst in the country, with 156 of its 754 bridges — or 20.7 percent — classified as structurally deficient.
The report estimated that traffic across Rhode Island’s deficient bridges is about 2.6 million each day. Across the United States, people make roughly 260 million trips over such bridges daily.
Rhode Island has reduced its number of deficient bridges by a net total of 7 since 2011, a 4.3 percent improvement, according to the report.
Much of the infrastructure problem nationwide is attributable to bridges’ age: The average American bridge is 43 years old, close to the general 50-year limit before bridges require significant maintenance. Among structurally deficient bridges, the average age is 65, a milestone that one-quarter of the country’s bridges will have reached a decade now.
The report cited a “maintenance backlog” due to high repair costs and an ailing economy. It also noted Congress’ elimination of MAP-21, a bridge repair fund, and increasing difficulty to procure federal funding for the effort. The rate at which deficient bridges were repaired from 2008 to 2012 was three times slower than the maintenance rate in the early 1990s, although the overall number of deficient bridges has continued to fall.
The Federal Highway Administration has estimated that fixing all problematic bridges would cost roughly $76 billion.
Only Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Iowa had higher rates of structurally deficient bridges than Rhode Island. In 15 states, the number of deficient bridges has increased since 2011.
Florida, Nevada and Texas were at the bottom of the list, each with under 3 percent of its bridges categorized as deficient.