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CRF Blog » Blog Archive » America’s Broken Bridges

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America’s Broken Bridges

by Bill Hayes

In America’s Broken Bridges, Bloomberg Businessweek takes a look at how dangerous many U.S. bridges are.

Five years after the Minneapolis I-35W span suddenly collapsed in August 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145 others, the U.S. still has 18,000 similarly designed spans, known as fracture-critical bridges, that need continual attention and money for inspections at a time when funding for maintenance is drying up. On March 31, the current extension to the federal highway bill, which funds work on bridges, will expire. Congress has been working on new legislation since the fall, getting nowhere. The Senate passed a two-year, $109 billion highway spending package on March 14 that would raise money for transportation projects by changing how pension fund contributions and liabilities are calculated. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is pushing a five-year bill that calls for using royalties from U.S. oil and gas drilling—a proposal he hasn’t been able to sell to his own party.

The delays and political bickering aren’t reassuring for commuters who rely on the San Diego-Coronado or any of the other fracture-critical bridges. “They don’t give any warning at the point of collapse,” says Thomas Fisher, dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. “It is sudden and catastrophic.” [more]