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Report finds more than 400 'structurally deficient' bridges in Oregon

A study by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association found that 422 bridges were classified as structurally deficient — 5.2 percent of all bridges in the state.

Posted: Apr 3, 2019 11:34 AM
Updated: Apr 3, 2019 4:33 PM

SALEM, Ore. — Many of Oregon's bridges are falling into serious disrepair — with more becoming "structurally deficient" every year, according to a report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

Of 8,161 total bridges in the state that were identified in the study, ARTBA found that 422, or 5.2 percent, could be classified as structurally deficient — meaning that "one of the key elements is in poor or worse condition."

In 2014, the organization found only 403 bridges in the same state of disrepair.

The report also identified a list of the most traveled bridges in Oregon that fall into this structurally deficient category. While many of them are in the urban areas near Portland and Salem, at least two were in Southern Oregon.

The US 199 bridge over the Rogue River in Josephine County (Caveman Bridge) was built in 1931 and sees some 30,900 crossings per day, according to the report. In Jackson County, the report found, the Barnett Road overpass on I-5 sees some 17,000 crossings each day and was built in 1962.

Both bridges are categorized in the report as structurally deficient — but Gary Leaming with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) said that both have seen major repairs within the past year. NewsWatch 12 reported on the ongoing Caveman Bridge project in September, which concluded several weeks ago. The Barnett overpass saw renovations that were completed in 2018.

Leaming also could not account for the number of crossings reported by ARTBA on the Caveman Bridge. According to ODOT numbers, the bridge sees roughly 19,000 crossings per day — or something like 38,000, if the adjacent Rogue River crossing is included. Neither number seems to jive with the ARTBA report.

According to ARTBA, a total of 2,007 bridges have been identified by the state as being in need of repair — with an estimated price tag of $1.8 billion to complete the task. In 2014, only 1,941 needed repair.

In the report, ARTBA says that the data used came from a federal study. And in many cases, the problems are federal as well, with some of the bridges identified coming from the Interstate Highway System.

"A recent analysis of U.S. DOT data finds there are nearly 235,000 U.S. bridges in need of some structural repair, rehabilitation or replacement. This includes 47,000 structurally deficient bridges that are in poor condition," ARTBA said.

The organization isn't without an opinion on the matter, pushing for Congress to find a "permanent revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) in a manner that robustly grows highway and bridge investment."

"Status quo federal funding for America’s transportation network won’t fix this problem," ARTBA said.

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