ODOT Requests More Federal Investment in Bridge Safety

Sun September 21, 2008 - Midwest Edition
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The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has joined its colleagues in other states calling for federal investment into the nation’s aging bridge system.

The request comes on the heels of a major national report issued July 28 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), which shows that one out of every four U.S. bridges needs to be modernized or repaired. Immediately making all of the necessary improvements would cost at least $140 billion; in Ohio, that cost is estimated at $4.2 billion.

Among the report’s key findings:

• Age — usually built to last 50 years, the average bridge in this country today is 43 years old; almost 20 percent of these “Baby Boomer” bridges are over 50.

• The Price Tag — according to new data from the Federal Highway Administration, the cost to repair or modernize the country’s bridges is at least $140 billion, assuming all the bridges were fixed immediately.

• Soaring Construction Costs — costs of steel, asphalt, concrete and earthwork have risen by 41 percent over the past four years in Ohio. Nearly every state faces future funding shortfalls that could prevent them from the on-going replacement needed to keep bridges sound indefinitely.

“ODOT devotes a significant amount of its annual budget to bridge preservation and modernization. Over just the past year, ODOT has contracted more than $404 million in projects to preserve and improve our state bridges,” said ODOT Director James Beasley. “But for all the work we accomplish with our transportation partners at the local level, the sustained safety of Ohio’s bridges will rely more on continued and improved federal investment in Ohio’s infrastructure.”

Ohio has more than 42,000 bridges, the second largest inventory of bridges in the nation — second only to Texas. ODOT is responsible for more than 14,891 bridges on the state highway system.

“New technology can help us build bridges that are stronger and longer-lasting,” said Pete Rahn, AASHTO president and director of the Missouri Department of Transportation. “Yet we are not seeing the kind of national attention or investment we need to address these issues.”

As it stands today, the Federal Highway Trust Fund cannot fulfill the promises made to Ohio under the transportation reauthorization package passed in 2005. The latest figures forecast a shortfall that would result in a national cut of $13 billion in federal investment. Ohio could face up to $550 million in lost federal funding in 2009.

On July 29, ODOT Director Beasley detailed the work Ohio has done to improve bridge safety in the 12 months since the I-35W bridge collapse.

The department also launched a new public outreach effort to help the public better understand the state’s efforts to keep bridges safe.