Fourteen percent of bridges statewide and nine percent of bridges in Southern Maine are structurally deficient according to a new report released Nov. 1 by TRIP, a Washington, DC-based national transportation organization. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components.
The TRIP report, “Preserving Maine's Bridges: The Condition and Funding Needs of Maine's Aging Bridge System,” finds that Maine has the ninth highest rate of structurally deficient bridges in the nation. In Southern Maine, which includes Cumberland and York Counties, 53 of the 566 bridges (20 ft. or longer) are structurally deficient.
Bridges that are structurally deficient may be posted for lower weight limits or closed if their condition warrants such action. Deteriorated bridges can have a significant impact on daily life. Restrictions on vehicle weight may cause many vehicles — especially emergency vehicles, commercial trucks, school buses and farm equipment — to use alternate routes to avoid weight-restricted bridges. Redirected trips also lengthen travel time, waste fuel and reduce the efficiency of the local economy.
MaineDOT's current funding for state bridge repairs is $105 million annually, but a 2014 report found that the state should be spending $140 million annually to maintain bridges in their current condition and $217 million annually to make significant progress in improving the condition of the state's bridges. Early findings from an updated bridge analysis being conducted by MaineDOT indicate that the annual cost to maintain the state's bridges in their current condition has increased significantly from the 2014 estimate.
A significant number of Maine's bridges were built from the 1950s through the 1970s and have surpassed or are approaching 50 years old, which is typically the intended design life for bridges built during this era. The average age of Maine's bridges is 52 years. The cost of repairing and preserving bridges increases as they age and as they reach the end of their intended design life.
“Maine's businesses and employers alike rely on transportation systems to connect them to their workforce and to connect that workforce with suppliers and customers around the state and around the globe,” said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “Ensuring that our bridges continue to be safe, and addressing the backlog of needs in roads, bridges and all transportation infrastructure is critical to growing our economy. We can and we must do better to make transportation funding a higher priority for our state.”
The TRIP report includes lists of the 25 most heavily traveled structurally deficient bridges in Southern Maine, Bangor and Central Maine. It also includes lists of the 25 structurally deficient bridges in each region that have the lowest average rating for deck, substructure and superstructure. The report's appendix includes a list of all structurally deficient bridges in Maine that carry more than 500 vehicles per day.
Ten of the most heavily-traveled, structurally deficient bridges in the Southern Maine region are:
• I-295/Route 88 (NB)
• I-295/Route 88 (SB)
• Routes 9 & 22/Stroudwater River
• I-95 (NB)/Stroudwater River
• Route 24/U.S. 1
• U.S. 1/M C RR
• Routes 125 and 136/I-295
• U.S. 1/Saco River (N of E Chan)
• Route 4/Mousam River
• U.S. 1/Kennebunk River
The following structurally deficient bridges in Southern Maine have the lowest average rating for deck, substructure and superstructure (carrying a minimum of 500 vehicles per day):
• U.S. 1/M C RR
• Spring Street/Stroudwater River
• U.S. 202/Collyer Brook
• U.S. 202/Little River
•Lambert Street/Presumpscot River
• Beech Ridge Road/Dolly Gordon Brook
• Route 5/Little Ossipee River
• Route 11/Pump Box Brook
• U.S. 1/Kennebunk River
• Route 9/B&M RR
Each major component of a bridge is rated on a scale of zero to nine, with a score of four or below indicating poor condition. If a bridge receives a rating of four or below for its deck, substructure or superstructure, it is rated as structurally deficient. A list of the 25 bridges in Southern Maine with the lowest average sufficiency rating is included in the report. To view the entire list, visit tripnet.org/docs/ME_Bridge_TRIP_Report_Appendix_2017.pdf.
“We must invest wisely in infrastructure improvements that not only account for today's needs, but also prioritize needs for the future,” said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs for AAA Northern New England. “With 2016 highway fatalities topping 37,000 last year and marking the highest total since 2008, we must invest in our highway system to promote efficiency, reduce congestion and reduce the deaths and injuries on our roadways.”
“Maine's bridges are a critical component of the state's transportation system, providing crucial connections for personal mobility, economic growth and quality of life,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP's executive director. “Without increased and reliable transportation funding, numerous projects to improve and preserve Maine's aging bridges will not move forward, hampering the state's ability to efficiently and safety move people and goods.”