It will cost $140 billion to repair and modernize the nation's 600,000 bridges. The nation's infrastructure, particularly its bridges, has received much attention since the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed without warning last summer, killing 13 people.
The American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO) released its “Bridging the Gap: Restoring and Repairing the Nation's Bridges” report in August. AASHTO called many of the spans “baby boomers” because while most were built to last 50 years, their average age is 43 years. Twenty percent of the nation's bridges are more than 50 years old.
The report said age, deterioration, soaring construction costs, and increasing traffic congestion are the major problems in this area. AASHTO is calling for increased spending in transportation at the federal, state, and local levels. It also supports a wide range of revenue options, including tolls, tax increases, annual user fees, bonds, and private investment.
A continued commitment to research, innovation, and technology are keys to the solution, the report stated. It also calls for systematic maintenance to extend the life of bridges and increased public awareness about the importance of bridges.
“The current generation of babyboom bridges are showing their age, and they're going to require significant investment,” said Pete Rahn, the AASHTO president who also serves as director of the Missouri Department of Transportation. “We must act now.”
“No matter how hard a state applies its efforts and its resources to this problem, it's never going to make enough of a dent without significantly and radically increased federal help,” added Al Biehler, the association's vice president who also is secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.