Are our local bridges safe?
According to a study by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, West Virginia ranks second in terms of states with the most structurally deficient bridges. The study found that nearly 20 percent of the state’s bridges are in need of attention.
Structurally deficient bridges aren’t just prevalent in West Virginia. They are also a problem in Ohio. According to that same study, the Buckeye State’s 6th Congressional District, which includes all of Ohio’s counties in the 7News viewing area, has 4,981 bridges. Out of those bridges, 374 (or 7.5 percent) are structurally deficient, which means that one of the key elements is in poor or worse condition.
“We’ve seen that number actually going up in West Virginia over the last few years,” explained Dr. Allison Black, a Chief Economist with ARTBA. “In Ohio, we’ve seen what the national trend has been is that we have seen some progress as the number of those bridges has come down.”
According to ARTBA, Ohio has reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges by 499 over the last five years. During that same time, the number of dilapidated bridges in West Virginia has increased by 522, the largest total of any state in the nation.
For the 2019 fiscal year, Ohio plans on spending $1.6 million on more than 3,000 bridges while West Virginia has proposed spending just over $2 million on more than 3,500 bridges. United States Senator Sherrod Brown has an idea for how to pad the funding of these projects.
“I think you need to cancel some of the tax breaks that went to the richest people in the country and redirect that money so it goes directly into infrastructure,” said Sen. Brown. “Leverage that locally so that you have real investment to the tune of hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars. Real investments in infrastructure.”
Rural bridges are in desperate need of attention but so are the bridges that receive the most traffic.
The study indicates that 45 interstate highway bridges in the Mountain State have been labeled structurally deficient, while 14 interstate bridges have received the same designation in the Buckeye State.
In West Virginia, two of the most-traveled structurally deficient bridges are located on I-70 in Ohio County. One bridge is over Middle Creek and CR-39, while the other is located above US-40.