Who’s Responsible For All These Bridges?

According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)’s recently released 2017 Bridge Report, 6 percent of Maryland’s bridges are structurally deficient, and 20 percent are functionally obsolete. From the report:

  • Of the 5,321 bridges in the state, 308, or 6%, are classified as structurally deficient. This means one or more of the key bridge elements, such as the deck, superstructure or substructure, is considered to be in “poor” or worse condition.
  • 1,072 bridges, or 20%, are classified as functionally obsolete. This means the bridge does not meet design standards in line with current practice.
  • 268 bridges are posted for load, which may restrict the size and weight of vehicles crossing the structure.

At the State Highway Administration (SHA)’s budget hearing on February 16, upon reviewing the Department of Legislative Services (DLS)’s analysis, Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chair Edward Kasemeyer asked Maryland Transportation Deputy Secretary Jim Ports about the report. WJZ-13 had just covered the story. How come ARTBA reported that 6 percent of bridges in Maryland were structurally deficient, when the DLS analysis reported that less than 3 percent of the bridges in the State Highway network met that classification? Deputy Secretary Ports clarified that SHA only maintains a little more than half of the bridges in Maryland: local governments maintain the rest.

In fact, according to the Maryland Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)’s 2011 Report Card for Maryland’s Infrastructure:

In Maryland, approximately 55 percent of bridges are on the state highway system, while the remaining 45 percent are owned by local and other jurisdictions … Only approximately 4.2 percent of the bridges on the state system are structurally deficient, a figure well below the national average of structurally deficient bridges (12.1 percent). Of the 359 structurally deficient bridges in the state, nearly 69 percent of them are owned and maintained by local municipalities.

After the decimation of highway user revenues to local governments in 2010, this percentage could only have gotten worse. It seems clear that local governments, and their bridges, could benefit from a Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland (LIFT 4 MD).