We are forced to think about our nation’s infrastructure when a big bridges collapse occurs, but many fail to notice that decrepit bridges drive up the prices on almost anything that gets to the store by truck. Transportation for America (T4A) recently released a report that shows 11 percent of all U.S. highway bridges are structurally deficient. According to the report, placing all 66,405 deficient bridges end-to-end would create one long deficient bridge stretching 1,500 miles — that is equal to the distance from Mexico to Canada across the widest part of the United States.
While a bridge with a structurally deficient rating isn’t necessarily about to collapse, in many cases it means the bridge has weakened to the point where it can no longer handle heavy loads. Lower weight restrictions cause big trucks that deliver goods to detour, making their routes longer and adding to transportation costs. That cost is usually passed along to consumers, which is reflected in many of the rising costs people are seeing at the market.
An estimated $76 billion is needed to repair deficient bridges that carry 260 million vehicles each day, yet traditional transportation funding is eroding, and the federal government’s current financial condition and fiscal outlook further complicates the issue.
Currently only 10 percent of structurally deficient bridges are eligible for repair under our nation’s largest highway program. The remaining 90 percent are left to compete with all the other pressing needs in our communities, and many states are going into their sixth or seventh year of budget troubles.