HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Among the many structures at risk from Hurricane Irma are Florida's bridges. Seventeen percent of the 12,000 bridges in Florida are rated, quote, structurally deficient, or functionally obsolete, according to the Federal Highway Administration. USA Today reporter Brett Murphy is covering that part of the story, and joins me now by Skype from Naples, Florida. Brett, first of all, these are not Golden Gate Bridge size bridges we're talking about, but define those terms for me. What makes something functionally obsolete or structurally deficient?
WASHINGTON – A new report says the Brooklyn Bridge and Washington's Arlington Memorial Bridge are among thousands of spans considered structurally deficient. Although the numbers of deficient bridges have declined in recent years, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's analysis of transportation department data shows more than 55,000 bridges in the U.S. have been deemed deficient. ARBTA says deficient bridges are crossed about 185 million times a day. The top 14 most-traveled deficient bridges are located in California. Bridges labeled structurally deficient aren't necessarily in immediate danger of collapse.
Four years after the Legislature boosted the gas tax in order to fix California's crumbling roads and bridges, the state has spent billions and made some progress in repairs, but officials now say the funding is sufficient only to complete less than half of the work needed. The gas tax has been a political hot potato since it was passed in 2017, resulting in the recall of a Democratic state senator who voted for the legislation and an unsuccessful attempt by Republicans in 2018 to ask voters to repeal the higher charges. Now, with the gas tax set to increase again July 1, the campaign to fix roads and bridges is again stirring contention, drawing criticism from some lawmakers who say repairs have been too slow and the effort has lagged behind other states in maintaining and improving transportation systems. The program to fix roads has been hampered by California's high cost of repairs compared with other states and by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in less driving and therefore hundreds of millions fewer gas-tax dollars than expected. In addition, with people driving more electric and fuel- efficient cars, state officials are studying ways to make up for the loss of gas tax revenue, possibly with fees tied to miles driven.
Massachusetts has some of the nation's worst bridges and highest rates of vehicle travel and congestion, according to a new report. The report by TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit, found that 7% of Massachusetts' urban interstate bridges were in poor or structurally deficient condition -- the fourth highest percentage, just after West Virginia's 13%, Rhode Island's 12% and Illinois' 8%. "Maintaining safe bridges is a critical public safety issue; therefore, the federal government requires all bridges in the United States to be inspected every two years," said Abbie Goodman, executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts. Massachusetts also had the sixth-most congested interstates -- just behind California, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and Florida, consecutively -- with 68% of its urban interstates experiencing congestion during peak commuting hours, according to the report, "America's Interstate Highway System at 65: Meeting America's Transportation Needs with a Reliable, Safe & Well-Maintained National Highway Network." And the number of vehicles being carried per urban interstate lane mile was 16,326, the eighth highest in the nation, the report said.
Since the 1960s the Morandi bridge in Genoa, Italy arced high over railway tracks, nearby buildings and the Polcevera river, stretching across a span of 3,615 feet (0.68 miles) carrying cars and trucks along a major toll road nearly 150 feet above the ground. On Tuesday, a massive segment (estimated at 262-feet long) of the bridge collapsed suddenly, sending steel, concrete, cars and trucks hurtling to the ground in what Italy's Transportation Minister called an "immense tragedy." that left dozens dead. The bridge collapsed in the middle of a extremely wet and rainy day in Genoa. Some eyewitnesses told news agencies that they had seen lightning hit the bridge before the collapse. The exact cause is still unknown, but the New York Times reported that Deputy Transportation minister Edoardo Rixi said the bridge had shown "signs of problems" in the past.