Sunday, June 7, 2015

Surface Transportation Infrastructure’s Bad News Will Only Get Worse

            Widely circulated doom and gloom reporting about the sorry state of this nation’s surface transportation infrastructure will only get worse as the Federal Highway Administration begins to collect “element level” bridge condition data from state highway departments. The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century highway legislation mandates state reporting to FHWA of separate ratings for each and every square foot of roadway bridge built with federal funding. Bridge components, including decking, joint seals, girders, beams, bearings and columns, will each get a square foot by square foot rating as good, fair, poor or severe.
            This sort of detailed reporting, while it could lead to more precise budgeting for needed repairs and maintenance, will undoubtedly not lead to higher funding levels to meet the needs reflected. What it will do is give the public a more accurate, and hence gloomier, picture of the sorry state of our bridges, which carry ever increasing loads of freight and passenger traffic, while receiving less and less maintenance and repair attention. Maybe this kind of reporting will lead to highway funding authority more appropriately based on the need to bring the worst bridges up to safe condition, rather than relying on political influence of Representatives and Senators to determine where our finite resources are allocated.

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