The Bridges of Maryland’s Counties: Sun Paper Analyzes Infrastructure Conditions

The Baltimore Sun‘s “Data and Statistics” desk releases a detailed analysis of Maryland bridges, finding a number to be in “poor” condition

How safe are Maryland’s bridges? That’s the headline of the Baltimore Sun‘s article, analyzing bridges maintained by state and local governments in Maryland. Relying mainly on federal data from the Federal Highway Administration, the Sun details the classification of bridges in the metro area, finding that over 5% of the state’s bridges listed in the federal inventory are graded as being in “poor” condition.

An interactive map showing the location of the “poor” bridges is available online, and embedded on the newspaper article website.

For context, the Sun clarifies:

To be clear, “poor” condition doesn’t mean a bridge is unsafe — officials and experts emphasize that a bridge found to be structurally unsound would be closed. Still, such bridges can be a nuisance, damaging to cars, particularly tires. And the costs for repairing long-deteriorating bridges increase with every year.

The Sun also acknowledges the important impact of funding losses — most notably the lost share of Highway User Revenues traditionally sent to local governments for road and bridge maintenance, but redirected to state use for nearly the last decade.

Some jurisdictions blame the backlog of bridges in need of repair on cuts to local governments’ share of state highway user revenues — gas and motor vehicle fees collected by the state and shared between the state and local governments.

“Local counties are now carrying about 90 percent of bridge and road maintenance costs,” said Cynthia Mumby, a spokeswoman for the Harford County government.

Restoring these local funds has been a top priority for MACo and county governments for years. 2018 marked a step forward, but not a solution to the longstanding problem.

The full analysis is available online through the paper’s GitHub site.

The interactive map of bridges from the study is available online.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties