Analysis: NY sees increase in structurally deficient bridges

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New York is one of 15 states with more "structurally deficient" bridges than two years ago, according to a new analysis of bridge inspection data.

Pennsylvania's bridges were in the worst shape, with 24.5 percent considered structurally deficient, according to a report released Wednesday by Transportation for America, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition that advocates for infrastructure reforms. The determination is based on a Federal Highway Administration database of bridge inspections.

In New York, 2,170 roadway bridges -- 12.5 percent of the state's 17,402 bridges -- were deemed structurally deficient. Nationally, 11 percent of bridges met the criteria, which describes "deteriorated conditions of significant bridge elements and potentially reduced load-carrying capacity."

The designation does not mean the bridges are unsafe, but that they need significant maintenance and repair to stay in service, according to the highway administration.

New York has 61 more structurally deficient bridges than two years ago when Transportation for America last analyzed the data.

Nassau and Suffolk counties are among the five best in the state for bridge condition. In Suffolk, the report cited 10 structurally deficient bridges -- 1.7 percent of the county total. In Nassau, the number of deficient bridges totals 13 or 3.4 percent.

Nadine Lemmon, Albany legislative advocate for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said New York has done well in prioritizing diminishing federal funds. She cited the governor's New York Works program and the Department of Transportation's Preservation First policy focusing on repair and maintenance.

"The challenge is we're still falling behind because there's insufficient federal dollars going to the states to start with," Lemmon said. "Congress needs to find the fix and they must also fund the fix."

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said concern over declining infrastructure funding from dwindling gas tax revenue nationwide led him last week to co-sponsor the Safe Bridges Act to authorize $2.75 billion for states to address deteriorating bridges.

All options, including increasing the fuel tax, need to be considered, he said. An interstate highway bridge collapsed in Washington state on May 23.

Oklahoma, Iowa, Rhode Island and South Dakota join Pennsylvania in having more than 20 percent of their bridges deemed structurally deficient. Texas, Nevada and Florida ranked as the best states, with less than 3 percent in that category.

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