500 Bridges In Poor Condition

Staff | September 28, 2010

One year after Minnesota's bridge collapse, Michigan policymakers continue to ignore over 500 state bridges rated in poor condition, 163 of which are serious, according to information recently published by the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA).

"Immediately following the bridge collapse, policymakers talked about improving the condition of our bridges," said Mike Nystrom, vice president of government and public relations at MITA. "Unfortunately for the residents of Michigan, it has all been talk. Nothing has been done to increase transportation funding to fix our deteriorating roads and bridges."

The analysis of Michigan bridges, published on the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) website, shows the state with over 3,000 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges. The federal condition rating system scores bridges on a scale from zero to nine (nine being those in the best condition) in three categories — deck, superstructure and substructure. Over 500 MDOT bridges scored poor, serious or critical, receiving a four or less in at least one category.

According to MDOT's Five-Year Transportation Program, at least one in every six of the state's most serious bridges is not even scheduled for repair in the next five years due to lack of money. Those numbers are expected to drop even further with the recent news that Michigan is projected to lose as much as $1 billion a year in federal transportation matching funds.

"Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the Minnesota bridge collapse, and Michigan lawmakers have done nothing to fix our most serious bridges in that time," said Dennis Gillow, infrastructure director for the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 324. "The sheer number of bad bridges is frightening, given our dire situation with plummeting transportation dollars."

A 2007 Reason Foundation report on the performance of state highway systems concluded Michigan has the eighth worst road system overall and is ranked 16th worst in the nation based on the number of deficient bridges. According to the recently published Governor Granholm-appointed Citizens Advisory Committee report, it is estimated that Michigan's roads and bridges will require an annual investment of $6.1 billion — nearly two times the current funding level — for basic improvements to the state's road and bridge system. Without this investment, an additional 30 percent of Michigan roads will decline to poor condition over the next decade.

"U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters recently said that we need to look at alternatives to the gas tax," said Rich Studley, president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. "The news today highlights the importance of the state quickly finding a different and better way to fund Michigan's transportation system, especially road and bridge repairs."

Rising oil prices have led motorists to decrease their driving, but have also led to an increase in the price of steel, asphalt and concrete which exacerbates funding shortages and delays much-needed repairs.

"It is a critical time for Michigan's transportation system," Nystrom said. "We either find a way to increase funding so we can fix our crumbling infrastructure, or we wait until something tragic happens — like Minnesota — and scramble to pick up the pieces."