One of every 11 bridges in Ohio is ‘structurally deficient,’ new study finds.

by Tom Breckenridge The Plain Dealer 

CLEVELAND, Ohio — You probably drive across one every day — a bridge that is “structurally deficient” and in need of repair. That doesn’t mean the bridge — the Inner Belt span over the Cuyahoga River, for example — is unsafe.

But one of every 11 bridges in Ohio is structurally deficient, highlighting the dire need for this country to find more money for bridge repair and replacement, a new report says. Ohio actually has fewer deficient bridges than the national average, according to an analysis released today by Transportation for America, a nonprofit coalition that includes real estate, housing, environmental and public health interests.

One of every nine bridges in the United States — about 66,000 — is deficient, the report says. They are rated in “poor enough condition that some could become dangerous or be closed without near-term repair,” according to the report.

About 2,400 of Ohio’s 27,000 bridges are deficient. That’s an improvement over the 2011 bridge report done by Transportation for America, which found nearly 2,800 bridges rated as “structurally deficient.” Officials with Ohio Department of Transportation, which oversee bridges on state, federal and interstate routes, could not be reached for comment.

Cuyahoga County officials oversee more than 300 bridges, said county Public Works Director Bonnie Teeuwen. The county is making progress on bridge upkeep, she said. On a nine-point scale, with nine being “excellent,” county bridges average about a six, which is “satisfactory,” Teeuwen said. She said major rehabilitation on some bridges is delayed for lack of money.

“There’s never enough money for the improvement of our infrastructure, bridges included,” Teeuwen said. “Bridges are always a high priority. When a bridge fails, it’s catastrophic. When a road fails, you don’t lose lives.”

The Transportation for America report recommends the federal government reinstate funding that was dedicated to bridge replacement and repair. A short-term rewrite of federal transportation law last year ended the set-aside funding for bridge upkeep. Instead, that money was rolled into a new program that allowed states to use the money as they see fit.

Congress should direct states to dedicate money for bridge repair, Transportation for America said. And Congress must find a way to raise more money for a “rapidly aging” bridge system, the report said.

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