News of the bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, has urbanists, lawmakers, and everyday citizens alike rethinking the safety of aged infrastructure across the globe. A reported 39 people were killed on Tuesday when part of the cable-stayed Morandi Bridge snapped during a torrential downpour, causing dozens of vehicles to fall 148 feet to the ground. Completed in 1967, the 0.8 mile-long bridge underwent a restructuring effort two years ago and work on the foundation was underway this summer when the collapse occurred. Experts say both the design and maintenance of the 51-year-old bridge may be at fault for the catastrophic event.
Many of the 614,387 bridges in the United States are nearing the end of their useful life, says to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Nearly four in ten are 50 years old or more, according to an ASCE report updated last year, but some significant repair work has been done over the last decade to ensure the future safety of a few of these structures. The ASCE reported that the percentage of structurally-deficient bridges in the U.S. has decreased from 12.1 percent to 9.1 percent since 2009 and that about 13.6 percent of the nation’s bridges are functionally obsolete. The ASCE also estimated that 15 percent were built between 40 and 49 years ago and will soon reach the end of their functional lifespan.
With 188 million people traveling across poor bridges each year, these figures beg the question: How can the U.S. maintain its aging infrastructure?
Though the U.S. has made advances on the state of its bridges, there’s still a long way to go. The ASCE said that it will cost $123 million to fix the nation’s deteriorating bridges and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association adds it will take nearly 37 years to do so. In January, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the Bridge Investment Act in Congress, a $75 million measure that would help fund a 10-year federal grant for state bridge repairs, reports Construction Dive. The proposal is currently being reviewed by the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.