More than 50,000 bridges across the U.S. are falling apart and endangering drivers, according to a new report.
NBC News found cases from Florida, Georgia, Michigan and other states where pieces of crumbling bridges broke off and fell to the roadway, sometimes hitting vehicles.
In Utah, driver Mike Peterson escaped serious injury when a chunk of a bridge smashed through his windshield as he drove underneath.
“Another six to eight inches, you might not be talking to me today,” said Peterson.
Using government data, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association compiled a report showing that 54,259 American bridges are “structurally deficient.”
So many bridges are in need of repair, says the report, that if placed end-to-end they’d stretch nearly from New York City to Miami. And experts say that at the current rate of repair or replacement it would take 37 years to fix all the bridges.
“It really comes down a failure of leadership in Congress to address some of these issues and provide additional funding,” said Dr. Alison Black, author of the ARTBA report.
President Trump is expected to address the country’s aging infrastructure during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
In 2016, NBC National Investigative Correspondent Jeff Rossen inspected a Washington, D.C. bridge with Charles Borders, a transportation branch chief with the National Park Service.
“There is metal literally peeling right off of it,” said Rossen as he looked at the underside of the structure.
“Look at this flange right here, paper thin. This is all that’s left,” said Borders.
“This is what’s holding up the roadway?” asked Rossen.
“This beam is holding the bridge up,” confirmed Borders. “This is the support for the entire bridge. Just completely rusting away.”
That bridge has not been fixed.
Almost every article written about the infrastructure stresses the importance of providing more money for the infrastructure and fixing the nations bridges specifically. I would like to see more news on the amount of money currently spent on the infrastructure and how it is being spent. Is it possible that it should not just be about throwing more money at the problem?
I do agree that more money is needed in transportation infrastructure to build new bridges, rail lines, enhance communications, build deeper ports but I also feel that we need to do more to analyze how current budgets are being spent. Are funds being utilized properly? Are the best technologies being utilized in construction materials and inspection services to stretch every dollar, manage maintenance and repairs while being sure that the top priority of keeping the public safe is always the first priority.
Working for a robotic engineering and bridge inspection company, I see and hear about new technology developments everyday. Materials that can coat the highways to prevent deterioration, nano technology that can repair itself in asphalt so roads do not crack or deteriorate for a hundred years.
When it comes to inspection services I can can tell you from experience that the inspection methods are antiquated, manual in nature and do not supply sufficient information in order for the department of transportation to best budget and schedule for maintenance and repairs.
How do you fix or maintain something without having the best information possible and why would you want to?
With today’s modern technology and robotics infrastructure inspections can be less expensive, road closures held to a minimum and quantitative data provided to asset owners so they can make the best budgetary decisions possible. It doesn’t matter how much money the federal government throws at the infrastructure there is still not enough money to replace all of our defective bridges.
See the link to an article in NDT.org magazine about some of these new bridge inspection methods.
Author, Infrastructure Preservation Corporation
Doug Thaler is an author at Infrastructure Preservation Corporation. Infrastructure Preservation Corporation is a nondestructive testing and bridge inspection company that has developed robotic infrastructure inspection services to replace 50 year old manual inspection methods within current maintenance budgets. To find out more go to www.infrastructurepc.com.