Did you know that Route 5 in Orange County is considered to be one of the most travelled bridges in California, with more than 320,000 cars travelling across its deck every day? But as you can imagine, all of this use must be putting considerable strain on the bridge, which is why we pose this question to our readers: should Californians be worried about our state’s bridges?
The answer is yes and here’s why. According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly one-tenth of the 607,380 bridges in the National Bridge Inventory are rated as structurally deficient. Although these bridges are not necessarily considered unsafe at this time, without significant maintenance or weight restrictions these bridges can pose a serious risk to the public. And as you may be able to imagine, a bridge collapse here in California would be a catastrophic accident.
An easy answer would be to simply provide the necessary funding to fix the structurally deficient bridges. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. That’s because the Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by revenue from the federal gas tax and pays for road and public transit projects such as bridge repair, is losing money at about $20 billion a year. Trustees say that because the gas tax has not been raised since 1993, the fund is no longer able to sufficiently match construction costs.
According to some experts, without Congressional action, the trust will soon become insolvent, meaning there will be no more money for future projects let alone bridge maintenance. This could come as a hard blow to the state and federal government, especially if multiple bridge accidents result in a flood of personal injury claims in the decades to come.
Source: USA Today, “Analysis: Nation's bridges desperately need repair,” Larry Copeland, April 24, 2014
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