Thursday, September 20, 2018
Transportation

Florida among the states with the lowest number of structurally deficient bridges

Florida is home to 265 "structurally deficient" bridges, according to a new report from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, or ARTBA.

The report examined federal data and found that there are 54,259 bridges rated "structurally deficient" out of the 612,677 bridges in the United States.

Compared to the other states, Florida ranked 49th on the percentage of structurally deficient bridges and 41st on the total number of structurally deficient bridges. There are a total of 12,355 bridges in Florida, according to the report.

The number of structurally deficient bridges is so long that if they were positioned end-to-end, they would stretch 1,216 miles — roughly from Miami to New York City.

These bridges are crossed roughly 174 million times each day, with the 1,800 structurally deficient Interstate bridges being crossed 60 million times daily. The Interstate Highway System is also 48,000 miles long.

Bridges are inspected and rated on a scale from 0 to 9 — 9 means the bridge is in "excellent" condition while a rating of 4 or below gives a bridge a "structurally deficient" classification. That rating typically means that one of the key elements on the bridge is in poor or worse condition.

Bridges in Pinellas and Hernando counties made the list of top most travelled structurally deficient bridges in Florida.

In Pinellas County, a bridge located at State Road 679 over Boca Ciega Bay sees 17,400 daily crossings. The bridge was built in 1961. Kristen Carson, a Florida Department of Transportation representative, said in an email this replacement for this bridge will begin "this year."

For Hernando County, a bridge built in 1965 located at Interstate 75 (State Road 93) northbound over SR-50/US-98/SR-7 was listed as seeing more than 15,750 crossings. Carson said the northbound bride was demolished while its replacement will soon be open to traffic again. North and southbound traffic is shared on the southbound bridge.

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Also according to the study:

• While approximately 2.1 percent of the bridges are classified as structurally deficient, eight of those bridges are on the Interstate Highway System.

• The state has also invested 22.4 percent of highway and bridge contract awards. That’s less than the average of 28.9 percent nationwide.

• In the past 10 years in Florida, 1,357 new bridges have been built while 612 have had some major repairs.

• State officials found that 693 bridges will need repairs with an estimated $1.7 billion price tag.

Alison Premo Black, chief economist for the ARTBA who conducted the report, said in a press release that it would take about 37 years to fix all of the nation’s bridges. Black said repairs have slowed over the past year.

The release of this study comes as President Donald Trump prepares to give his State of The Union address Tuesday. He’s expected to discuss the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

"An infrastructure package aimed at modernizing the Interstate System would have both short- and long-term positive effects on the U.S. economy," Black said in the press release, adding that traffic issues cost the trucking industry more than $60 billion per year.

Those costs raise the prices on "everything we make, buy or export," Black said.

Black also told NBC News the buck stops with Congress on the prevalence of crumbling bridges.

"It really comes down a failure of leadership in Congress to address some of these issues and provide additional funding," Black told NBC News.

A Federal Highway Administration Official told NBC News that the report "underscores the need for investment in our nation’s infrastructure."

"It also highlights the importance of streamlining the permitting process, so that the projects that are funded can move forward without undue delay," the administration told NBC News in a release. "The Department of Transportation looks forward to continuing our work with state and local interests to revitalize the nation’s roads and highways, offering improved safety, new jobs, and a better quality of life for the American people."

Clarification: An earlier version of this story said the Hernando County bridge located at Interstate 75 (State Road 93) northbound over SR-50/US-98/SR-7 sees more than 15,750 crossings daily. The northbound bridge was demolished and traffic now shares the southbound bridge while the northbound replacement is finished.

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