28 percent of U.S. highway bridges deficient, according to study

More than one-fourth of U.S. highway bridges are deficient, according to a computer analysis of Federal Highway Administration data.

The analysis, conducted by the Associated Press, found that 28 percent of U.S. bridges need repairs, cannot adequately handle traffic loads or do not meet safety standards. This percentage, however, is an improvement from a decade ago. In 1992, 46 percent of all U.S. bridges were considered deficient.

The latest research revealed the District of Columbia had the most bridges needing repair, with more than two-thirds of its bridges marked deficient. This includes the Benning Road bridge across the Anacostia River, which carries 68,400 vehicles every day. Other states with bridges needing repair include Massachusetts, Rhode Island — with more than half of its bridges deficient — and Alaska, where the number of deficient bridges has more than doubled since 1992.

The decrease in the number of bridges needing repair from 1992 to 2002 coincided with the passage of two federal transportation bills that earmarked $36.5 billion for repairs. The current bill – the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century — expires Sept. 30. With Congress preparing to renew the legislation, the number of bridges under construction could increase over the next few years.

However, some states, including Maryland and Kansas, are cutting back transportation spending because of shortfalls in state budgets. Wisconsin is also considering cutting highway and bridge funding.