An alarming number of Michigan’s 10,831 bridges – 3,055, or 28 percent – are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, according to a statewide analysis released today by the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA).
The findings come in the wake of recent road studies that showed 26 percent – or 28,700 of the state’s 110,000 combined miles of state and local roads – have deteriorated to the point where they are classified in “poor” condition. The number of poor miles in Michigan is roughly equivalent to seven roundtrips between Detroit and Los Angeles.
“Across Michigan we have sadly reached the point where our road and bridge system is no longer sustainable,” said Mike Nystrom, executive vice president of MITA. “When the percentage of roads and bridges in tough shape climbs to a level this high, policymakers have little choice but to repair and replace the failing ones rather than maintain the others before they fail as well.”
The analysis – which for the first time includes information on the status of locally maintained bridges – reveals:
• Of the 4,414 bridges that are the responsibility of the Michigan Department of Transportation, 1,332 – or 30 percent – are either functionally obsolete, meaning their design is outdated, or are structurally deficient, which indicates a bridge has deteriorating beams, a crumbling deck or other problems that could force its closure.
• Among the 6,417 bridges that are the responsibility of local governmental units, 1,723 – or 27 percent – are in need of bridge maintenance or repair.
Because of declining gas consumption due in part to more fuel-efficient vehicles, gas tax revenues have plummeted by more than $100 million since 1997 – the last time the state’s gasoline tax was increased. Gas tax revenues have fallen steadily each year since 2002. At the same time, revenues from vehicle registration fees that also helps pay for roads and bridges has declined significantly as tough economic times have forced many motorists to forgo new car purchases.
To underscore the seriousness of the situation, consider that in September – following months of contentious debate – Michigan lawmakers finally came up with a way to scrape together $84 million in state money to secure $475 million in federal matching funds for roads and bridges. Some lawmakers are even calling upon Congress to end state matching fund requirements altogether which would allow the state to invest even less in an already-failing road and bridge system.
“Disinvesting in roads and bridges when Michigan is desperately trying to climb out of a deep economic hole is short-sighted public policy,” said Nystrom. “While it’s easy to point fingers and blame road agencies for the poor bridges, the reality is that they’ve been underfunded for decades.”
Here’s a breakdown of poor bridges*:
Highest percentage of MDOT bridges in poor condition:
1. Wayne County has 63 percent in poor shape (431 of 684 bridges); 2. Saginaw County has 57 percent (55 of 97); 3. Emmet County has 56 percent (five of nine); 4. Antrim County has 50 percent (one of two); and 5. Kalamazoo County has 48 percent (30 of 63);
Highest percentage of local bridges in poor condition (of all counties with more then one bridge):
1. Marquette County has 55 percent (54 of 98); 2. (tie) Genesee County has 49 percent (87 of 179); Washtenaw County has 49 percent (66 of 135); Mason County has 49 percent (17 of 35); 3. Ingham County recorded 46 percent of local bridges in poor condition (44 of 95); Highest percentage of all bridges in poor condition:
1. Wayne County has 56 percent of its bridges listed in poor condition (574 of 1,026); 2. Genesee County has 48 percent (177 of 370); 3. Emmet County has 44 percent (12 of 27); 4. Marquette County has 43 percent (57 of 133); 5. Washtenaw County (99 of 248) and Charlevoix County (six of 15).
“Let’s be clear about where we stand : We either find a way to increase funding so we can fix our crumbling infrastructure, or we wait until something tragic happens and scramble to pick up the pieces,” said Nystrom. “We can no longer afford to ignore this worsening situation – the time for action is now.”
The 2010 bridge data was collected from information in the MDOT local bridge inventory list and from the MDOT bridge report. Both are available online at www.drivemi.org. The information represents a snapshot in time taken earlier this year and could contain a lag time of a few months between the time a bridge was upgraded or downgraded and when that information was included in official reports.
MITA represents a broad spectrum of highway construction companies and suppliers that help build a better Michigan infrastructure from the bottom up. It has been a leading voice in efforts to secure adequate transportation funding at the federal and state levels. For more information visit www.mi-ita.com or www.drivemi.org.
*For the purposes of this analysis, bridges in “poor condition” are those that are rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.