One in four of Rhode Island’s major bridges is deficient and in need of repair or improvement, and one out of five of the state’s non-Interstate major roads are in poor condition, according to a new study released by a national nonprofit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C.
Rhode Island’s bridges also are aging. The average age of bridges in the state is 49. Six out of 10 of Rhode Island’s bridges were built from 1950 to 1980. The decade that saw the most bridges constructed was the 1960s, when one-third of the bridges currently open to traffic today were built.
The study, "Rhode Island’s Roads and Bridges: Conditions, Use and Funding Needs," by The Road Information Program (TRIP), found that 25 percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient, showing significant deterioration to decks and other major components. Rhode Island ranks behind only Oklahoma and Missouri nationally in percentage of bridges rated structurally deficient.
With vehicle travel in Rhode Island continuing to increase, road conditions will deteriorate unless improvements are made. By 2020, based on population and lifestyle trends, TRIP estimates that vehicle miles of travel (VMT) in Rhode Island will increase by 35 percent, to approximately 11.3 billion miles annually.
"The state’s deficient roads and bridges are hurting motorists in their wallets, as driving on roads in need of repair costs each motorist in Rhode Island $276 annually in extra vehicle operating costs," said William M. Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director.
"Not only do they waste money, but bridge restrictions on vehicle weight may cause emergency vehicles, commercial trucks, school buses and farm equipment to use alternate routes. Redirected trips lengthen travel time and waste fuel, thereby affecting public safety and reducing the efficiency of the local economy."
Additional funds to address some of the needs listed in the report may become available if voters approve a bond program on the November ballot.
"RIDOT uses the transportation bond money, and its federally matching dollars, to make improvements throughout Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns," said William D. Ankner, Ph.D, RIDOT’s director. "Passage of this year’s referendum is critical to the continued improvements this Department will make to our State’s transportation system."
Further findings of the TRIP report:
o Rhode Island experienced a 6 percent increase in population between 1990 and 2001 from 1,003,464 to 1,058,920 residents. Rhode Island’s population is projected to increase another 8 percent by 2025, reaching 1,141,000.
o Vehicle miles of travel in Rhode Island jumped 19 percent from 1990 to 2000, from 7 billion miles to 8.4 billion miles annually.
TRIP prepared this study at the request of Construction Industries of Rhode Island.