230,000 U.S. Bridges Need Repair

April 21, 2020

Nearly 230,000 U.S. bridges need major repair work or should be replaced, according to an American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) analysis. The figure represents 37 percent, or more than a third, of all U.S. bridges.

If placed end-to-end, the length of these bridges would stretch over 6,300 miles long--long enough to make a round trip across the country and back again to Chicago. American drivers cross these bridges 1.5 billion times per day--representing one-third of all daily bridge crossings, according to the data. 

More than 46,000 of those bridges are “structurally deficient” and in poor condition. They are crossed 178 million times a day. An additional 81,000 bridges should be replaced, says ARTBA chief economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, who led the team conducting the analysis. One third of the interstate highway bridges (18,177 spans) have identified repair needs. 

The report comes as Congress and the Trump administration continue working on measures to respond to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. ARTBA says once policy makers shift from a rescue focus to economic recovery, transportation infrastructure investments have comprehensive benefits. 

“Economic recovery from coronavirus begins with strategic road and bridge improvements,” ARTBA President Dave Bauer says.  “Increased transportation investments support direct job creation and retention, while putting in place capital assets that will enhance U.S. productivity for decades to come.”

Bauer also said the transportation construction industry is not seeking federal assistance, but it should be part of the solution. The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee’s July 2019 unanimously approved five-year highway reauthorization bill should be the starting point for discussions.

ARTBA estimates the cost to make bridge repairs for all 231,000 bridges in the U.S. at nearly $164 billion, based on average cost data published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA.)

The number of structurally deficient bridges declined by 900 compared to 2018.

“At the current pace, it would take more than 50 years to repair America’s structurally deficient bridges,” Dr. Alison Black, ARTBA’s chief economist, says. “Our bridge network is underfunded and should be modernized.  State and local government just haven’t been given the necessary financial resources to fully address the problem.”

Source: ARTBA