One in three US bridges need to be ‘repaired or replaced’
By Andy Brown29 August 2023
One in three bridges in the US need to be repaired or replaced, according to American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) analysis of the recently released US Department of Transportation 2023 National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database.
The total number of bridges that need major repair work or should be replaced is more than 222,000, which is approximately 36% of all bridges in the US.
ARTBA chief economist, Alison Premo Black, who conducted the analysis, estimates it would cost more than US$319 billion to make all needed repairs.
States currently have access to US$10.6 billion from the 2021 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s (IIJA) bridge formula funds that could help make needed repairs, with another US$15.9 billion to be available in the next three years.
As the end of FY 2023 approaches on Sept. 30, states have committed US$3.2 billion, or 30% of available bridge formula funds to 2,060 different bridge projects, with US$7.4 billion still coming.
“The good news is that states are beginning to employ these new resources to address long-overdue bridge needs,” ARTBA President and CEO Dave Bauer said. “The better news is that more improvements are on the way.”
Over the last five years, the share of bridges in fair condition has continued to grow as the share of structures classified in ‘poor’ or ‘good’ condition declined.
Most bridges are inspected every two years, meaning repairs underway or in the planning stages can take time to be reflected in the NBI data. In 2023, nearly half of all bridges in the US (48.9%) were in fair condition.
Bridges are classified in good, fair, or poor condition based on their inspection ratings and definitions from US Department of Transportation.
The definition of ‘poor’ is when a key element of the bridge – the deck, superstructure, substructure or culverts, are rated in poor or worse condition. During inspection, the conditions of a variety of bridge elements are rated on a scale of zero (failed condition) to nine (excellent condition). A rating of four is considered ‘poor’ condition.