Monday, July 28, 2008

Infrastructure: Bridges

"Bridging the Gap: Restoring and Rebuilding the Nation's Bridges," is a report released today by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.(
New Mexico has 3,850 bridges with 698 or 18.% "deficient," Of the deficient, 404 are "structurally deficient" and 294 are "functionally obsolete." The count may be a little higher after this weekend's flood in Ruidoso.
White no comfort can be taken from New Mexico's performance, most states are doing worse, though our neighbors, as usual, are doing better. Arizona has 7,350 bridges with 10.6% deficient. Colorado has 8,350 bridges with 16.8% deficient. At the other end, Kentucky has 13,600 bridges with 31.5% deficient. The percentage leader is our nation's capitol, Washington, D.C., which has a mere 245 bridges but with 62% deficient. Take that, tourists!
New Mexico estimates it has some $220 million in bridge needs, but can fund only about $13 million per year, the report says.
The problems are traffic, cost, age, safety and needed new bridges. The report says, "The number of structural
repairs needed on bridges increases
proportionally with their age. Data
from the National Bridge Inventory
demonstrate how structural repair
needs increase as bridges approach
their 40th year. Today, about 50 percent
of all bridges, when measured in terms
of area, are between 35 and 55 years
of age. While 50 years ago the nation
faced an historic period of bridge
construction, today it faces an historic period of bridge repair and reconstruction."
AASHTO's first answer is to spend a lot more money. The money will have to come from tolls and "an overall increase in tax revenues." The other answers are research and development, systematic maintenance and public awareness.
AASHTO, being the state highway officials group, doesn't suggest that somehow along the way state highway officials have messed up. Of course not.

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