Key points about the condition of US bridges and their role in the economy

Quick The Baltimore Bridge collapsed Being hit by a large cargo ship highlights the importance that bridges play in the daily lives of many Americans.

Six construction workers on the bridge are believed to have died. Drivers of the more than 30,000 vehicles that cross the bridge each day must find a new route around or over the Patapsco River. Exports at the Port of Baltimore will be temporarily suspended, forcing many businesses to find alternative ways to transport their goods in and out of the United States.

The Interstate 695 bridge in Baltimore was previously in satisfactory condition Ship collisionThousands of other bridges across the United States are in poor condition due to aging piers, beams and key structural components.

Here are some excerpts An Associated Press analysis More than 621,000 road bridges, more than 20 feet in length, are listed in the National Bridge Inventory of the federal government.

Thousands of poor bridges

Inspectors rate bridges using a scale of 0-9, with 7 or higher considered „good”. A „poor” rating reflects a 4 or below in any area of ​​a bridge's major components. An intermediate estimate is considered „reasonable”.

About 42,400 US bridges are in poor condition, and about 167 million vehicles travel each day, according to the federal government. Those poor bridges are an average of 70 years old.

On those bad bridges, Four out of five have problems Either their substructures (the legs that hold them up) or their superstructures (the arms that support their load). According to an AP analysis, more than 15,800 poor bridges were listed in poor shape a decade ago.

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Iowa has A large number of bad bridges, It was followed by Pennsylvania, Illinois and Missouri.

Why do bridges collapse?

Although unusual, the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore was not the first bridge to come down after a ship collision. They were from 1960 to 2015 35 major bridges have collapsed around the world A total of 342 people were killed in ship or barge collisions, According to the 2018 report From the World Association for Water Transport Infrastructure. Eighteen of those collapses occurred in the United States.

Although rare, bad bridges eventually collapse.

In January 2022, a bridge Fell over Fern Hollow Creek In Pittsburgh, it caused injuries, but no deaths to the occupants of several vehicles. Federal investigators have determined The bridge's steel legs corroded, creating visible holes, though inspectors failed to quantify the severity of the problem and the city repeatedly failed to follow through on recommendations.

“This bridge did not collapse by an act of God. It collapsed because of a lack of maintenance and repair,” said Michael Graham, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

A win for the economy

When bridges close or collapse, there are financial consequences.

13 people died and 145 were injured Interstate 35 Bridge In 2007 it collapsed over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. A state analysis Minnesota's economy lost $60 million in 2007-2008. Increased travel time and operating costs for passengers and businesses.

Bridges in Providence, Rhode Island and Tacoma, Washington are currently closed due to safety concerns. Nearby businesses were affected as motorists were diverted.

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Marco Pacheco, who owns a liquor store on a main road in the Portuguese neighborhood of East Providence, said his business revenue has dropped 20% since the bridge closed late last year. But he worries more about the long-term effects.

„That traffic doesn't come back immediately. People have reshaped their patterns, their thought processes and so on,” Pacheco said.

Business owners in Washington shared similar concerns about the indefinite closure of the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge in an industrial area near the Port of Tacoma. The nearby Interstate 5 bridge offers a good alternative, but many motorists pass the exit without thinking about nearby businesses like the Harley-Davidson motorcycle store.

„Is there any danger?” asked Harley Davidson shop owner Ed Wallace. „Yes, of course, something very serious for me as a business owner.”

Federal funds

A massive Infrastructure Act Signed by President Joe Biden in 2021, it commits $40 billion to bridges over five years — the largest dedicated bridge investment in decades. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the law already funds 7,800 bridge projects.

That would also put a dent in the $319 billion worth of bridge repairs needed nationwide, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

„The bottom line is that America's bridges need a lot of work,” Buttigieg told the AP after visiting the shuttered Rhode Island bridge. He added: „The sooner we can address those significant bridges, the less likely they will be taken out of service, or worse, at risk of collapse.”


This story has been corrected to show that the collapsed bridge in Baltimore is on Interstate 695, not 895.

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