A $27 billion investment announced Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration is expected to make 15,000 bridges throughout the nation safer.
According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, this will be “the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the Interstate highway system.”
With the funds, bridges in all 50 states as well as Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and Tribal government areas will be replaced, repaired or rehabilitated over the next five years as part of the Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection, and Construction Program. This program was made possible by President Joe Biden’s approximately $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
During a tour to explain the benefits of the new law, Biden surveyed a bridge needing repairs in New Hampshire.
To complete the projects, funds will be administered through the Federal Highway Administration. States, D.C. and Puerto Rico will receive $26.5 billion of the funds and Tribal transportation facilities will receive $825 million over the five-year project period. Even some bridges that are not part of the federal highway system will be included.
This year, the total amount available to the states, D.C. and Puerto Rico is $5.3 billion and the total amount available to Tribal transportation facilities is $165 million.
“Modernizing America’s bridges will help improve safety, support economic growth, and make people’s lives better in every part of the country – across rural, suburban, urban, and tribal communities,” said Buttigieg.
According to a study published in 2017 by the New England University Transportation Center, the six most deadly bridge collapses between 1967 to 2016 resulted in 186 fatalities, or 3.7 fatalities annually. When other fatal collapses were included, the annual rate rose to five deaths per year. Between 1989 and 2000, the average age of failed bridges was around 52 years, said the study.
In addition to addressing aging bridges, the federal bridge project aims to create infrastructure that can withstand future challenges, said Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack.
“It will also modernize bridges to withstand the effects of climate change and to make them safer for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians,” she said. “Every state has bridges in poor condition and in need of repair, including bridges with weight restrictions that may force lengthy detours for travelers, school buses, first responders or trucks carrying freight.”
While the program makes bridges safer in America, it is also expected to create jobs. Other programs included in the infrastructure law are set aside for other transportation improvements.