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JH STRAIN 9/13/07 3:36 PM Page 86


Texas Bridges or presents an imminent danger to the will continue to monitor the state’s brid-
Following the bridge collapse in Minn- driving public,” TxDOT states. “It is a ges through its aggressive bridge inspec-
esota this summer, highway contractors term used by the Federal Highway Admin- tion program. In addition to enhancing
are paying close attention to the status of istration to classify and prioritize bridges safety, TxDOT is committed to reducing
bridges in their markets, and J.H. Strain for federal funding. Structurally deficient congestion and expanding economic opp-
is no exception. According to Strain, the bridges receive priority for limited reha- ortunity, improving air quality and in-
federal gas tax is overdue to be raised. bilitation or replacement funds from the creasing the value of the state’s trans-
“The last time it was increased was in federal government. Bridges that are un- portation assets.
1993, and we all know what inflation has safe or present an imminent public dan- “The challenge for Texas is that as the
done to construction costs,” Strain ger are closed to traffic.” state’s transportation system ages, demand
explains. “They’re still trying to operate Of the state’s bridges classified as struct- is increasing. TxDOT is committed to
with 14-year-old money. To catch up with urally deficient, 445 are on the state high- maintaining the safety of the state’s roads
their infrastructure spending, they’ll have way system and 1,579 are off-system and bridges, but as the department has
to raise taxes or come up with another structures, the agency reports. Also, it says, said before, it will not be easy.”
solution.” 282 bridges classified as structurally defi- In June, TxDOT reported that it would
TxDOT recently released a list of the cient are currently under contract to be need more than $6 billion to be trans-
state’s 2,024 structurally deficient rehabilitated or replaced. Another 1,303 ferred from new construction to routine
bridges. Of the state’s 50,000 bridges, 4 bridges classified as structurally deficient maintenance to ensure the safety and
percent were reported structurally defi- are under development as part of the quality of the state’s highway system
cient. In 2002, the state reported 2,928 state’s Unified Transportation Plan. The over the next five years. “The situation
and says the current figure shows a 31 state’s remaining 439 bridges classified points to the need for balancing two
percent reduction since then. as structurally deficient are not currently important goals: maintaining the exist-
Nationwide, it says, 12 percent of bridges scheduled for rehabilitation or replace- ing highway system and reducing traffic
are deemed structurally deficient. ment, and no funding has been identi- congestion,” TxDOT explains. “Finding
“The term ‘structurally deficient’ is a fied for them, it notes. just the right balance is tough. Texans
technical term that has recently been “Improving safety is TxDOT’s most im- deserve both a well-maintained highway
used in news accounts and public discus- portant goal and is a sacred obligation to system and the ability to get where they
sions to describe a bridge that is unsafe the state’s driving public,” it says. “TxDOT want to go in a timely manner.” ■