Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Is it time to eliminate "Bridges" from the call to spend more money on "Roads, Bridges and Other Infrastructure"? I report, you decide. Numbers you will only see here...

I read a short article (HERE) regarding the "crumbling infrastructure" in the US.  It pointed out that while 1 in 9 bridges in the US are considered "Structurally Deficient" today, that just 20 years ago that ratio was 1 to 5. He suggested that this was a vast improvement and that the emphasis on spending more money on it is perhaps overblown.

The writer linked to the Federal Highway Administration data on bridges so I was curious and decided to dig a little deeper.

The formatting of the data below is poor (my mistake) because of my lame excel skills but the numbers are correct (calculated by my daughter Cara).

Listed are the 50 States plus D.C. and Puerto Rico. Shown are the number of bridges and the number considered "structurally deficient ("#SD")  in 1992 and 2012.  In the second to last column is the percentage increase or decrease in the total number of bridges in each State.  In the last column is the increase or decrease in the number of bridges considered "structurally deficient" (#SD)



If you cannot read the numbers HERE is the link to the Google Doc of same.

Couple of observations.

The number of new bridges since 1992 has increased by a modest 6.07%  but the number considered "structurally deficient" has DECREASED by 46.2% (totals along the bottom).

A few States have FEWER bridges in 2012 than in 1992 (Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota)

A few States have MORE bridges considered structurally deficient in 2012 than in 1992 (Alaska, California, Iowa, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Wyoming).

Curiously, Iowa is the only State to appear twice on the above two lists.

California's whooping 91.76% INCREASE in the number of deficient bridges really stands out.  They built only a modest number of new bridges (10% increase) but appears to have not attended to existing bridges on any scale.  Maybe it is the fault of faults---meaning earthquake fault lines.  That can shake things up a bit.

In 20 years we have 34,751 new bridges and a decline of 57,323 bridges that are considered structurally deficient.

Can we do more or is the pace of improvement over time adequate and it is not necessary to spend more than we already do in upkeep and maintenance?
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