The State of Bridges Across the U.S.: The Good

The American Society of Civil Engineers releases a report card every four years that rates infrastructure across the United States, including bridges and roads. We combed through the data in the most recent report to identify the states with bridges in the worst and best condition. Then we ranked them and came up with recommendations for improvement. We think this is important information to have in order to solve our current bridge infrastructure crisis. 

In this article, we reveal the states with bridges in good condition, with the best ones at the top of the list. If you haven’t seen our list of the states with the worst bridges, you can find it here.

  1. Utah

Utah has almost 3,000 bridges as part of its highway system. Most are of moderate size and span other roadways. The viaducts are typically built of steel or concrete beams and have concrete decks. The decks are often overlaid with other materials to extend their lives. 

The good news: Just under 3% of Utah bridges are structurally deficient.

The bad: Almost one out of three Utah bridges will reach the end of its design life in the next decade. Currently, on average, the state builds about 35 new bridges and rehabilitates 10 each year. At today’s funding and work rates, experts project a shortfall of 10 to 20 new or significantly rehabilitated structures each year. Utah has to start planning now for the issues it could face in the future.

  1. Arizona

Arizona has just over 8,000 bridges. More than 250 are structurally deficient. The estimated cost for replacing them is approximately $220 million. Approximately one-half of Arizona’s bridges are more than 40 years old, which means many are approaching the end of their expected life. This could leave the state vulnerable. Experts believe that Arizona needs to explore new options for bridge maintenance funding because current sources have become unreliable.

  1. Florida

Florida has more than 12,000 bridges. Approximately 15% are 50 or more years old and have reached the end of their design lives. However, Florida has only 200 structurally deficient bridges, which represent less than 2% of all the viaducts in the state. However, about 8.5% of Florida bridges are weight posted or closed. While Florida’s bridge infrastructure is in relatively good shape, maintenance dollars must continue to be allocated to keep the state‘s bridges in good working order.

  1. Tennessee

Tennessee has almost 20,000 bridges. The state has the lowest number of bridges that are both structurally deficient and functionally obsolete of all the southeastern U.S. states.

Just under 1,000 (5%) of Tennessee’s bridges are structurally deficient. The relatively low number and percentage can be traced back to a focused effort — starting in the 1980s and continuing today — to repair and replace bridges. Since 2004, more than 1,000 new ones have been built, and hundreds more have undergone major reconstruction. 

Tennessee proves that taking an ongoing approach to maintaining bridges pays off over the long term.

5. Alaska

Alaska has about 1,400 bridges. The vast majority are less than 50 years old and structurally sound. Only 82 of the state’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient. That means they require more frequent inspection and maintenance. The state can stay ahead of the curve by finding ways to fund bridge improvements before structures become functionally or structurally inadequate.

  1. Nevada

Nevada has one of the best bridge and transportation systems in the U.S. Only 1.5% of its 1,944 bridges are structurally deficient. However, one out of four is more than 50 years old. By 2030, another 12% will reach that milestone. Bridges that age typically need more maintenance. Some require replacement. 

At this time, the funding available for bridge maintenance is not adequate to meet future needs. Nevada spends approximately $17 million every two years on it. However, the backlog of work would take $133 million to complete. The state needs to take steps to find additional bridge funding to maintain the high quality of its bridge infrastructure.

  1. District of Columbia

The District of Columbia is a good news story. It has 265 bridges that are, on average, 58 years old. These structures have exceeded their design life. However, over the last few years, the district has reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges from 8% to 3%. Despite this, almost 225,000 vehicles travel over structurally deficient bridges every day, so there is still work to be done and additional funding is needed to do it.

  1. Vermont

Vermont has recently made significant progress in reducing its number of structurally deficient bridges. Only about 5% of the bridges in the state are in that category, compared with almost double that in 2012. 

However, not all the news in Vermont is good. Bridges in the state are an average of 57 years old, significantly higher than the national average of 43 years. This high average age is a warning sign that the state will require increased maintenance funding in the years ahead.

  1. Washington

Washington has 7,410 bridges. More than 300 are in poor condition, and 6.6% of the inventory (based on bridge deck area) is considered structurally unsound. 5,000 bridges are in need of repair. The required fixes include replacing bridge anchor cables, repainting steel bridges with a protective paint coating, and repairing concrete bridge decks. On top of all this, roughly 600 bridges need a seismic retrofit to meet current design standards in the earthquake-prone state. 

The good news: The state has taken positive steps to remedy its bridge maintenance issues, including using accelerated bridge construction techniques to reduce construction time and costs. 

  1. Georgia

Georgia has positive momentum going for it. The state has almost 15,000 bridges, and it has reduced the percentage of structurally deficient ones from 8.6% in 2014 to 4.6% in 2017. How did this happen during a time of limited infrastructure spend? Georgia’s Transportation Funding Act of 2015 allocated almost $1 billion in additional annual funding for Georgia’s transportation system.

The next step Georgia must take to make its bridge infrastructure world class is for local municipalities to allocate additional dollars to improve their managed bridges.

  1. Hawaii

Hawaii’s 1,135 bridges have a high average age of 60 years. However, the percentage of bridges in the state rated in good condition has risen over the past several years. That’s because Hawaii has put a big focus on making repairs. Unfortunately, at the same time, the number of structurally deficient ones has also increased. A major challenge: Bridge construction and repair costs are relatively high in Hawaii because designers and contractors have to address the natural environment. 

Hawaii’s state and county transportation agencies are focused on maintaining the state’s existing bridges, but little is being done to upgrade them. This should be the next focus for regional transportation agencies.

  1. Delaware

In Delaware, just under 5% of bridges are rated structurally deficient. Currently, driving on bridges and roads that require repairs costs Delaware drivers just under $400 each year. Delaware is a known business leader, but its current infrastructure spend could impact its position in the future.

  1. Minnesota

One good thing that came out of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis is that it forced Minnesota to take on bridge maintenance work that had been put off for a long time. Still, there is more that needs to be done. 

Across Minnesota, 5.4% of its 19,776 bridges are structurally deficient. Thousands of viaducts in the state are reaching the end of their intended design lives. In addition, more than 500 are posted for limited weight loads.

Experts estimate that the state will need $5.4 billion in bridge maintenance and construction funding over the next two decades. Only $3.22 billion is in place. That leaves a shortfall of $2.18 billion, or $108.8 million each year.

  1. Maryland

In Maryland, 5.8% of bridges are structurally deficient. Driving on bridges and roads that require repairs costs each driver in the state $550 per year on average. Maryland is at the center of a major east coast traffic corridor. It needs to come up with additional bridge maintenance and repair dollars to keep traffic moving.

  1. Texas

Texas has more than 53,000 bridges. That’s almost twice the number of any other state. Despite this, only 1.7% are structurally deficient, down from 2.6% in 2012. 

Texas faces challenges if it wants to maintain the current high quality of its transportation infrastructure. The most critical: Federal funding for bridge maintenance has been cut. However, the state legislature recently started collecting fees for truck permits based on size and weight. The funds generated will pay for ongoing bridge maintenance. Texas is one of the few states that looks well positioned to maintain its bridges in the future.

  1. Colorado

Approximately 5.7% of Colorado’s bridges are rated structurally deficient. Each driver in the state currently spends $580 per year to keep the state’s roads in repair. Experts recommend that Colorado should put more focus on maintaining infrastructure to stay competitive both nationally and globally.

  1. New Mexico

In New Mexico, a relatively small 6.5% of the state’s bridges are structurally unsound. Despite this, driving on roads and bridges in need of repair costs each New Mexico driver almost $600 each year. New Mexico needs to continue to allocate dollars to keep its vital transportation assets in good shape.

  1. Ohio

Approximately 7% of bridges in Ohio are structurally deficient. Driving on bridges and roadways in need of repair costs each driver in the state $475 per year on average. The instability of Ohio’s transportation infrastructure could impact its ability to compete economically in the future. The state must find funds to fix or replace Ohio’s deteriorating bridges and roads. 

19. Indiana

Approximately 8% of Indiana’s bridges are structurally deficient. According to the most recent estimates available, it costs each Indiana driver $272 annually to drive on roads that are in need of repair. The state needs to identify new funding sources in order to get its bridges and roads in good shape.

  1. Missouri

Missouri has the seventh highest number of bridges in the country. However, it has to maintain them with funding from one of the lowest gasoline tax rates in the U.S.

It’s not surprising that the condition of the bridges in Missouri falls behind the national average. More than 12.5% of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient.

The good news: Things are improving. Over the last decade, the Missouri has shifted funding to bridge rehabilitation. This has allowed the state to replace a significant number of bridges. Still, Missouri has almost 5,000 structures in need of repairs that could cost more than $4 billion. Unless the state addresses this, it could move from being a leader to a loser.

  1. Montana

Montana has almost 4,500 bridges. The average age is 44 years, only six years under their design life. Montana’s total bridge deck area is over 11 million square feet. Of that total, 7.3% is rated as poor or structurally deficient. 

In 2017, the state passed a fuel tax increase that provides additional funding for the maintenance, preservation, and rehabilitation of bridges and the construction of new structures. This effort has slowed the deterioration of the state’s bridges but is not enough to get them back into ideal condition.

  1. Oregon

The average age of bridges in Oregon is 43 years old. Despite this, the state’s bridges are in relatively good shape. That’s because it understands the importance that transportation infrastructure plays in the region’s economy, so the state is committed to funding it. Oregon was the first state to use a gas tax for this purpose. Recently, it implemented a road usage program to pay for transportation infrastructure repairs.

The state faces continuing challenges, including bridge and road capacity issues, because of a growing population. In addition, the state has to prepare for the threat of earthquakes. Both these issues will require new forms of funding.

  1. Kansas

There are approximately 25,000 bridges in Kansas. Just under 8.5% are structurally deficient, half the percentage of a decade ago.

The state has made it a priority to maintain, repair, and replace bridges. The effort has paid off. Today, Kansas is number one in the U.S. for the highest percentage of bridges in good condition. It also has the third fewest in the U.S. in poor condition. 

The significant improvement in the condition of the state’s viaducts proves the value of committing to funding infrastructure improvements.

  1. Illinois

Illinois has almost 27,000 bridges, the third highest number in the U.S. Of the total, 8.6% are structurally deficient. On average, nine million trips take place on structurally deficient bridges every day. In recent years, improvements to Illinois bridges have slowed. More concerning: Estimates say that it could cost $10 billion to get the state’s bridges into good working order, but only a quarter of that has been allocated for the next six years. Illinois needs to do more to make the state’s bridges structurally sound.

  1. Virginia

Virginia has 21,00 bridges. Their condition is declining because of aging and too little funding to repair and replace antiquated structures. Currently, more than 55% of Virginia’s bridges are approaching the end of their design lives. Almost one out of every four are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Because of this, Virginia’s bridges must be inspected frequently. More than 10,000 inspections take place every year. Unless the state puts more focus on bridge maintenance and repairs, it could find itself on our next worst bridges list.

Virginia finds itself in an endless cycle, where funds are used to address immediate problems, leaving very little money for preventative maintenance. This could lead to a crisis in the next decade as more bridges age out, unless additional funds are allocated for bridge maintenance and development.

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