AASHTO estimates bridges need $140 billion – minimum

| 7/30/2008

State transportation officials from around the country say it will take $140 billion to repair and modernize 590,000 bridges that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Members of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials spoke to reporters Tuesday, July 29, in North Philadelphia to announce the release of their latest report on modernizing the nation’s bridges.

“An analysis of the most recent data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that today it would cost a minimum of $140 billion to fix every deficiency on the nation’s 590,000 bridges,” said AASHTO President Pete Rahn during a press conference.

“Our ‘Baby Boomer’ bridges are aging and they need a lot of work if we are going to keep them safe and ready for our future.”

The report cites FHWA data about bridge age, traffic congestion and construction costs to come up with the overall repair estimate. Click here to download the full report.

Rahn, who is also head of the Missouri DOT, was joined by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and AASHTO Vice President Allen Biehler, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

They chose the Interstate 95 viaduct in North Philly to announce the report because that bridge has been flagged as having an unsafe crack in one of its piers.

Friday, Aug. 1, is also the one-year anniversary of the tragic Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people, including one truck driver.

Rendell said no matter how much money a state, federal or local government pays for bridges and infrastructure, it never seems enough.

“Our point today is about putting the country on a solid foundation and not about gaining political advantage or using statistics as scare tactics,” Rendell said.

“The release of this report and our ongoing campaign on behalf of realistic transportation investment is all about ensuring public safety and rebuilding our economy. We simply can’t wait. We need solutions, not rhetoric.”

Rendell is currently seeking a long-term funding mechanism in his home state to fund roads, bridges and mass transit. Two options he has supported include tolls on Interstate 80 and the long-term leasing of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to private investors.

Current law in Pennsylvania provides for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to seek tolls on I-80, which requires approval from the Federal Highway Administration.

The proposed lease of the turnpike remains just as controversial and unpopular as I-80 tolls with many lawmakers across Pennsylvania and in Washington, DC.

The lease proposal stalled in the state’s House Transportation Committee when the General Assembly recessed earlier this month. The Assembly resumes in September.

– By David Tanner, staff writer