Report: More than 350 CT bridges ‘structurally deficient’

Washington – A transportation builders’ association says 357 bridges in Connecticut are “structurally deficient,” meaning one or more key elements, such as the deck or substructure, are considered to be in “poor” condition – or worse.

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association report, which is based on U.S. Department of Transportation ratings, is one of several studies that come out every year on the nation’s infrastructure. They all agree the nation’s roads and bridges need a massive infusion of help.

The U.S. DOT’s rating of a bridge as “structurally deficient” does not mean it’s in danger of collapse. Local or state officials shut down a bridges that are in danger of collapse. And although there have been disastrous collapses –  like 1983 collapse of the I-95 bridge over the Mianus River in Greenwich that killed three people — they are very rare.

But the bridges on the structurally deficient list are in need of repair and may be subject to weight restrictions.

“It is important to note that these bridges are safe,” said Connecticut Department of Transportation spokesman Judd Everhart. “Our bridges are inspected at least every two years and those that are in lesser condition are inspected more frequently. If we determined that any bridge is unsafe, we would close it immediately and keep it closed until repairs can be made or the bridge replaced.”

The good news for the nation about the ARTBA’s latest report is that there are about 2,500 fewer structurally deficient bridges in the United States than there were a year ago. Still, nearly 59,000 bridges are officially classified as structurally deficient by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The good news for Connecticut is that it’s not at the top of the list of states with the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges. Those are Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Iowa, were more than 20 percent of bridges were in poor shape or worse.

With 8 percent of the state’s 4,225 bridges deemed structurally deficient, Connecticut ranked 26 among all 50 states and the District of Columbia

In its latest report, the ARTBA added two new bridges to its list of the 10 most-traveled structurally deficient ones in Connecticut, the bridge over the Amtrak tracks on  I-91 just south of Route 17, which averages 122,500 crossings a day (built in 1965), and the bridge on I-84 in Waterbury over the Mad River, which has an average of 110,800 crossings (built in 1960.)

The rest of the top 10 most-heavily traveled bridges in Connecticut that were rated structurally deficient are:

  • The West River Bridge in New Haven that has an average of 150,600 crossings each day and was built in 1957;
  • The Yankee Doodle Bridge on I-95 over the Norwalk River in Norwalk, which has an average of 146,000 daily crossings and was built in 1957;
  • The bridge on I-95 over the Wepawaug River in Milford, which has an average of 135,300 daily crossings and was built in 1958;
  • The overpass on I-95 over Route 33 at Exit 17 in Westport, which has an average of 130,100 crossings and was built in 1964
  • The bridge over North Front Street and the Quinnipiac River on I-91 near New Haven, which has an average of 130,100 daily crossings and was built in 1958
  • The bridge on I-95 over the Byram River and South Water Street on the New York state line, which averages 129,600 daily crossings and was built in 1958
  • The ramps on 1-95 over the Metro North railroad tracks near Exit 28, which average 226,400 daily crossings and were built in 1958
  • The bridge in Hartford on I-84 over the Amtrak track and local roads near Myrtle Street.

Connecticut also has 1,087 bridges that are classified by the DOT as functionally obsolete. That means the bridge does not meet current design standards.

Everhart said the ARTBA report “validates what the Malloy administration has been saying for more than a year – we need to invest, we need to invest now, and we need a lockbox to protect the Special Transportation Fund and to prevent it from being raided for other expenses.”

Everhart also said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy “is investing in transportation like never before.”

The ARTBA says Connecticut is among the top states in the nation when it comes to the percentage of transportation capital spending it receives from the federal government — about 70 percent.

The association said federal investment in Connecticut has supported $4.2 billion in capital improvements on 2,122 bridges between 2005 and 2014.

It also said that, since 2004, 157 new bridges have been built in Connecticut and another 123 have undergone major reconstruction.

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