Nearly 9 percent of Wisconsin’s 14,230 bridges are considered “structurally deficient,” according to a report from a national road builders’ group.
The report from American Road & Transportation Builders Association, released Wednesday, analyzes transportation department data from throughout the U.S. to discover which bridges are deficient.
Bridges that are labeled structurally deficient are not necessarily in immediate danger of collapsing. The term is applied when spans require rehabilitation or replacement because at least one of their major components is showing signs of advanced deterioration or other defects.
The report also found that the number of deficient bridges in Wisconsin has remained steady since 2015. Of the 14,230 bridges that were in use in the state last year, 1,232, or 8.7 percent of the total, were found to be structurally deficient. In 2015, it was 9.1 percent.
In the U.S. as a whole, the analysis reported that more than 55,000 bridges are structurally deficient. At the same time, the group found the overall number of deficient bridges has declined in recent years.
Wisconsin was ranked 24th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for its percentage of deficient bridges. Rhode Island – which has relatively few total bridges – was ranked No. 1 for having the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges.
American Road & Transportation Builders Association estimates that deficient bridges are crossed about 185 million times a day. For 2016, the top 14 most-traveled deficient bridges were all in California.
In Wisconsin, the most-traveled structurally deficient bridges were a set of spans along Interstate 94 in St. Croix County. The bridges cross over Front Street and the southbound lanes of State Highway 35 before the interstate heads across the Mississippi River into Minnesota. About 42,800 trips are made over them every day. The structures were built in 1972.
Next on the list of most-traveled deficient bridges in the state is a span that conveys Highway 29 over a river in Marathon County. That bridge is crossed 37,800 times a day on average. A bridge along Interstate 41 spanning Highway 11 in Racine County has 36,680 daily crossings.
Beyond structurally deficient spans, American Road & Transportation Builders Association found that 783 – 6 percent of the total – of Wisconsin’s bridges are classified as “functionally obsolete.” Bridges are placed in that category because they do not meet current design standards.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s analysis comes at a time when state lawmakers are grappling over how to best pay for the upkeep and reconstruction of Wisconsin’s deteriorating roads and bridges. Some lawmakers, chief among them Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, argue that the state needs a long-term that relies on more than simply borrowing money and deferring projects.
Gov. Scott Walker, though, has consistently expressed resistance to proposals to raise the state’s gas taxes, registration fees or other sources of transportation revenue.
In an effort to bolster the state’s 2017-19 transportation budget, Assembly Republicans have proposed cutting various taxes by $300 million and raising transportation-related taxes and fees by the same amount.
The Associated Press also contributed to this report.