Report: Number of bridges in poor condition declining

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Screenshot 2023 08 16 At 2 15 54 PmThe number of bridges in poor condition declined this year by 560 compared to 2022, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's (ARTBA) analysis of the recently released U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) 2023 National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database, but more than 222,000 U.S. bridges need major repair work or should be replaced – a figure that represents 36% of all U.S. structures.

Placed end-to-end, these bridges would stretch more than 6,100 miles, according to ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, who conducted the analysis, and take four-and-a-half days to cross at an average speed of 55 miles per hour.

Based on average cost data submitted by states to U.S. DOT, Black estimates it would cost more than $319 billion to make all needed repairs.

Screenshot 2023 08 16 At 2 15 59 PmStates currently have access to $10.6 billion from the 2021 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act's (IIJA) bridge formula funds that could help make needed repairs, with another $15.9 billion to be available in the next three years. As the end of FY 2023 approaches on Sept. 30, states have committed $3.2 billion, or 30% of available bridge formula funds to 2,060 different bridge projects, with $7.4 billion still coming.

Thirty-one states that have committed less than 33% of their available bridge formula funds as of June 30, but eight states have committed more than two-thirds of their available bridge formula funds: Idaho (100%), Georgia (100%), Alabama (97%), Arizona (88%), Indiana (81.5%), Florida (80%), Texas (78%), and Arkansas (68%). States have four years to commit formula bridge program funds for specific projects, giving them additional flexibility to decide when to make investments.  

"The good news is that states are beginning to employ these new resources to address long-overdue bridge needs," said ARTBA President & CEO Dave Bauer. "The better news is that more improvements are on the way."

Black said most bridges are inspected every two years, so it takes time for repairs and rehabilitation efforts to show up in the annual federal data. "What we do know now from other market indicators is that there are more bridge projects in the pipeline," she added. 

ARTBA's analysis also uncovered that over the last five years, the share of bridges in fair condition continues to grow. In 2023, nearly half of all U.S. bridges (48.9%) were in fair condition. Some of that growth comes as bridges in poor condition are improved, and some from bridges that were previously in good condition deteriorated. Bridges in poor condition represent 6.8% of the 2023 U.S. bridge inventory — compared to 7.4% in 2019, according to ARTBA.

The report found that 76,600 bridges need to be replaced.

The states with the most bridges in poor condition are unchanged year-over-year, although there was some jockeying of position among the top 10. 

The states with the most bridges in poor condition

*as a percent of their total bridge inventory

1. West Virginia (20%, #1 in 2022)
2. Iowa (19%, #2 in 2022)
3. South Dakota (17%, #3 in 2022)
4. Rhode Island (15%, #4 in 2022)
5. Maine (15%, #5 in 2022)
6. Pennsylvania (13% #6 in 2022)
7. Puerto Rico (13%, #7 in 2022)
8. Louisiana (12%, #8 in 2022)
9. Michigan (11%, #9 in 2022)
10. North Dakota (11%, #10 in 2022)

States with the largest number of bridges in poor condition

1. Iowa (4,558 bridges, #1 in 2022)
2. Pennsylvania (3,022 bridges, #2 in 2022)
3. Illinois (2,472 bridges, #3 in 2022)
4. Missouri (2,213 bridges, #4 in 2022)
5. Oklahoma (1,815 bridges, #5 in 2022)
6. California (1,591 bridges, #8 in 2022)
7. New York (1,578 bridges, #6 in 2022)
8. Louisiana (1,545 bridges, #7 in 2022)
9. West Virginia (1,442 bridges, #9 in 2022)
10. North Carolina (1,336 bridges, #10 in 2022)

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at