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Two city bridges structurally deficient

Two New York City bridges considered structurally deficient nevertheless carry high numbers of vehicles daily, according to a report on the condition of the country's spans.

The bridges are Route 278 on Staten Island, which carries an average of 169,791 vehicles daily, and a bridge on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, which handles a daily average of 148,480 vehicles.

The two carry the highest number of vehicles daily in the state for structurally deficient spans, said the report prepared by Transportation For America, a group that advocates for more infrastructure spending. It is based on Federal Highway Administration data.

New York State was in the middle of the pack for the percentage of daily traffic that travels on structurally deficient bridges. The study found that 8.3 percent of daily traffic in the state travels on structurally deficient bridges.

By way of comparison, 17.5 percent of daily bridge traffic in Pennsylvania travels on structurally deficient bridges, the report found.

Overall, New York State ranks 23rd in the nation for the percentage of bridges that need repair, according to the study.

Twelve percent of New York State's bridges are considered structurally deficient, meaning engineers have identified a defect but it can remain open with access limitations, like weight restrictions.

The state's 12 percent figure puts it slightly behind the national average of 11.5 percent of bridges being labeled as structurally deficient.

A state Department of Transportation spokeswoman said inspectors regularly track conditions of state bridges. A deficient bridge may need "corrective maintenance or rehabilitation" but, "It does not mean that the bridge is unsafe for public use," Deborah Sturm Rausch said.

During a conference call Wednesday, TFA Director James Corless said the nation's bridges are "decidedly middle aged," with the average age of a bridge being 42 years.

Congress is soon expected to work on legislation to fund long-term transportation projects with money from the Highway Trust Fund, financed by a 18.4 cents a gallon federal gasoline tax, said TFA director James Corless.

An increase in the federal gasoline tax, which was last raised in 1993, "would be difficult in this climate," Corless said.

However, research shows the nation needs an incentive "for good repair" of its bridges, something a higher gasoline tax could provide, he said.

"We have to have the political will to do what's right," said Paula Hammond, Washington State Secretary of Transportation. "And that is to make the tough decision to set aside a basic level of preservation and maintenance levels."To search the TFA database, visit t4america.org.

With Zachary R. Dowdy

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