I got a call this week from a reporter wanting me to comment on a report released Monday by a group called Transportation for America, a transportation advocacy group. The report indicated that more than 13 percent of Michigan's highway bridges are structurally deficient, a number that will only grow as thousands of spans statewide approach their 50-year life expectancy. This ranks Michigan as the 13th worst state in the nation in the number of bridges in poor condition,
The reporter asked me how I felt about this report – did I think it was accurate and if so, what can we do about it. I told the reporter that, while not having a chance to read the entire report, the information appeared accurate. How we improve the situation? Well, the answer to that is to increase funding. Now let’s be clear on one point here – while a bridge may be labeled as "structurally deficient," it doesn't mean the bridge is unsafe, but rather that it's showing wear and tear, and needs repair.
Is this good enough? Well, I told the reporter that obviously it is good enough, since we have been telling the legislature and the governor for years now that additional monies are needed if we are going to address the growing transportation needs of state and no new revenues are on the horizon. In fact, dollars have been decreasing! How bad do things have to get before action to provide additional funding will occur? Obviously, we have to be worse than only the 13th worst state in the nation.
Remember, every unsafe bridge is either weight restricted or closed, so it is not a safety issue right now – it is more of an economic issue. Consider this another early warning, though, that the day is soon coming where more and more bridges will be closed and/or weight restricted making it harder and harder to get around and potentially stifling our economic rebound as a state and a region.
Check out this Free Press article for more information.