While following the money in the current highway transportation bill, the U.S. DOT released its report of their findings on 607,000 bridges they have inspected. It appears that out of that number, 65 of 605 of the bridges were found to be "structurally deficient." Some 20,808 of these bridges were found to be "fracture critical." In additional findings, there are some 7,795 listed in both ratings.
The bridges in this inspection were from Washington, D.C., to Maine. With that many bridges in this high-traffic area, this could mean a bridge failure could be likely. This problem has been ignored for too many years, and we are seeing the results of lack of maintaining them. We have to realize these states cannot take on these repairs alone. The help has to come from the federal government as well. Congress has done nothing to improve this problem. They only have contributed to the problem by not passing a working transportation bill.
At this point, it is too early to tell if Congress is going to do anything with this being an election year. But the clock is ticking toward 2014, when the current transportation bill expires in September. Congress is faced with having to come up with a long-term funding bill that is either going to keep the Highway Trust Fund afloat or some other means to fund the bill. The problem is, the longer Congress waits, the closer we get to another bridge disaster. What is needed is for Congress to take action on realizing funds to states that have both structurally deficient and fracture critical bridges. Through the highway trust fund from MAP-21 assets for these states for the repairs or replacement of these bridges is critical.
But with Congress getting ready to leave for the holidays, it appears nothing is going to be done until after the first of the year. I'm ashamed to admit it, but Congress only acts when it is in their best interest. And, I'm sorry to say, another bridge collapse is not the kind of press they are looking for. They need to be out in front of this before it happens. A disaster of this magnitude seems to be the only way Congress will realize that there is a real problem out there, and they are doing nothing.