Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One in four U.S. bridges needs repair

According to a report released Monday, the United States must spend at least $140 billion to make major repairs or upgrades to one of every four bridges in this country.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) report, titled "Bridging the Gap," cited Federal highway Administration statistics that 152,000 of the nation's 600,000 bridges are either "structurally deficient" or "functionally obsolete." The $140 billion price tag was derived by multiplying the total number of square meters of the problem bridges by the average cost per square meter— in 2006 dollars— to do the work.

"We need federal intervention, and federal intervention at a big level," said Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell after AASHTO released details of the report.

Rendell said a congressional study committee found that state and local sources account for 75 percent of the $80 billion spent annually on transportation infrastructure. "No matter how hard a state applies its efforts and its resources to this problem, it's never going to make enough of a dent without significantly and radically increased federal help," Rendell said.

The report recommends increasing gasoline taxes and new taxes on alternative fuels, turning free highways into toll roads, and increasing private investment in public works.

Most bridges are built to last 50 years, but the average U.S. bridge is 43 years old and approaching the age for replacement, according to the report.

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