Well, not quite yet. The AP reported today that “tens of thousands of unsafe or decaying bridges carrying 100 million drivers a day must wait for repairs because states are spending stimulus money on spans that are already in good shape or on easier projects like repaving roads.” Their analysis showed that less than one percent of the 150,000+ bridges labeled deficient or obsolete are sharing $2.2 billion in funds.
For its analysis, the AP asked each state and the District of Columbia to identify every bridge on which it planned some work using stimulus money. In some states that represented a final list. In others, new projects could be added. Most states provided project costs, but some did not. Some states included in their costs other road work related to the bridge project, like paving or widening nearby roads.
The AP then researched each bridge using the latest inspection data available from the Transportation Department.
This analysis found that:
· Many states did not make bridge work a priority in stimulus spending. More than half plan work on fewer than two dozen bridges and 18 states plan fewer than 10 projects.
· In 24 states, at least half of the bridges being worked on with stimulus money were not deficient.
· In 15 states, at least two-thirds of the bridges receiving stimulus money are not deficient.
Of particular interest is our South Park Bridge, which has been in worse shape than the Viaduct for years. (The South Park bridge has a rating of 3 out of 100, versus the 49.9 and 65.4 out of 100 that the NB and SB Viaduct bridges have, respectively.) It got a special mention in the AP article:
Washington state, for example, struggled with a plea from King County officials to help pay for the replacement of the 75-year-old drawbridge that serves as a major corridor in Seattle and connects two of the city’s industrial areas. The bridge’s cracked concrete foundations, widespread corrosion in steel beams and deteriorating moveable spans make it one of the nation’s worst still in daily operation — scoring a 3 out of 100 for structural sufficiency.
State officials couldn’t commit stimulus money to the project, which already was getting local and state funds, said Paula Hammond, the state’s transportation secretary. The South Park bridge was not a state priority, and officials needed to focus on projects that could be completed quickly, Hammond said.
“Every state is going through this because speed was a major, major factor for us,” she said.
More than a quarter of Washington’s 7,763 bridges are either deficient or obsolete, inspection records show.
With $27 billion in highway and bridge money, the stimulus provided an important stopgap but is too little to remake the U.S. transportation infrastructure, she added.
“If you wanted that to happen,” Hammond said, “you’d probably have to multiply that number by 10.”
Let’s hope it doesn’t take a major disaster to make the South Park bridge “a state priority” since it’s already the priority for those of us who cross it every day.