3/22/2011: One in Five Bay Area Bridges Deemed Structurally Deficient

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 3/22/2011

One in Five Bay Area Bridges Deemed Structurally Deficient

Federal Funds Fall Short as Need Increases

A new report released this morning on the state of California’s bridges is eye opening, especially considering the destruction just witnessed in Japan: one in five Bay Area bridges is structurally deficient.  This figure will continue to rise as an entire generation of bridges approaches their 50-year life expectancy. 

Download "The Fix We're In For: The State of California's Bridges" report.

Structurally deficient bridges are identified by the federal government as high priority for monitoring and repair, because of significant wear and tear or other defects to at least one part of the bridge.  These bridges will continue to deteriorate over time and may be closed or restricted due to safety concerns if the structurally deficiency is not addressed.

In recent years, California has spent all available federal funds for bridge repair, even putting additional flexible funds towards this purpose.  But the need far exceeds available funding.  Federal transportation policy continues to be heavily weighted towards building new roads rather than fixing existing bridges, roads, and public transportation systems.  Congress is currently reviewing these policies with the intention of passing a new federal transportation bill later this year.

“It’s clear: our transportation infrastructure is in crisis,” said Stuart Cohen, TransForm’s executive director.  “The era of building new highways is over.  Federal transportation funding needs to focus on fixing what we already have and then expanding only in ways that reduce our dependence on oil, like better public transportation, biking, and walking options.”

Given the economic crisis and current Congressional budget debates, prioritizing funding for repairs and maintenance first makes good sense.  Deferring maintenance of bridges and highways can cost three times as much as preventative repairs .  Repair work on roads and bridges generates 16% more jobs than new bridge and road construction, too .

"We're leveraging every last dollar that comes into the state to ensure that our bridges are safe, and it's still not enough," said State Senator Mark DeSaulnier, chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.  "The Bay Area's bridges are a vital part of our transportation network.  We need the federal government to increase investments in repair and maintenance, to keep our citizens safe and to prevent outdated infrastructure from weakening our economy."

“This is the perfect time to invest in our aging infrastructure,” said Assemblymember Nora Campos, who represents eastern San Jose including downtown.   “Given that construction costs are at their lowest levels in recent history, we can save taxpayers real money in the long run by seizing this opportunity now.  This investment will create the jobs we need to put Californians back to work rebuilding our economy.”

 

The report from Transportation For America, based on analysis of the Federal Highway Administration’s National Bridge Inventory Data, examines the condition of bridges throughout California.  Some key findings include:

County

Number of bridges

Number of structurally deficient bridges

Percentage of bridges that are structurally deficient

Average annual daily traffic on structurally deficient bridges

San Francisco

116

40

34.5%

2,569,899

Alameda

601

130

21.6%

5,608,117

San Mateo

344

74

21.5%

3,064,075

Sonoma

601

121

20.1%

737,485

Santa Clara

939

182

19.4%

5,804,761

Contra Costa

560

105

18.8%

3,241,193

Marin

199

31

15.6%

1,117,587

Napa

150

23

15.3%

80,153

 

The report recommends that the next federal transportation bill increase investments in repair for our bridges and other roadways, in order to ensure that the backlog of maintenance is addressed soon.  With the number of structurally deficient bridges likely to triple by 2050, California won’t be able to keep up without more federal support.

"During the worse economic downturn this nation has seen in 70 years and with the construction industry suffering an unprecedented 30 percent unemployment, bridge maintenance projects are the catalyst that California needs to put people back to work and help jump start the economy," said Joe Cruz, Transportation Policy Director for the California Alliance for Jobs.

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American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.  Bridging the Gap: Restoring and Rebuilding the Nation’s Bridges.  July 2008.  http://roughroads.transportation.org/

Smart Growth for America.  The Best Stimulus for The Money. www.smartgrowthamerica.org/stimulus.html