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State bridges need repairs

State bridges need repairs

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 7:03 pm
By: Bo Bradshaw, Tennessee News Service

Nashville – Our nation’s bridges are showing increasing signs of wear. In fact, more than 11 percent of them are classified as “structurally deficient.” That’s according to a report from Transportation for America. In Tennessee, the report says 6.2 percent of more than 1,200 bridges are tagged as deficient.
David Goldberg, communications director with Transportation for America, says while Tennessee ranks 44th on the list of states in terms of needed repairs and does a good job, the fact remains that aging bridges need attention before it is too late.
“The average age of bridges across the country is 42 years, and the typical design-life of a bridge is 50 years. That doesn’t mean that it will fall down in 50 years, but it does mean it’s expected to need major overhaul or, potentially, replacement.”
Part of the problem is that many states are suffering from declining revenues and cannot keep up with the rapidly growing backlog of aging bridges, Goldberg adds.
Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer is currently on a projects tour examining roadwork and bridges across Tennessee. TDOT spokesperson B.J. Doughty says the review process is key.
“We do inspect every bridge in the state on a bi-annual basis – every two years – and that is all done with TDOT personnel. TDOT personnel also examine the findings from those inspections and make recommendations.”
Goldberg adds that the federal transportation bill is in need of an overhaul, to ensure that states are making progress in repairing or replacing aging bridges. Extensions of the federal highway program have caused T-DOT and other states to limit planning for long-term projects. Doughty says change is needed.
“What we would like to see is a long-term bill that will allow us to do some of that advanced planning, so that we continue to be as aggressive as we have been when it comes to the repair and replacement of our bridges.”
According to the Federal Highway Administration, states will need nearly $71 billion to overcome the current backlog of deficient bridges.
Transportation for America says the investment would be money well spent, because deferring maintenance can cost three times as much as preventive repairs.
The complete report on bridges is available at www.t4america.org.

WCP 10.18.11

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