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America's bridges are decaying

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Data from the Federal Highway Administration shows only 38% percent of American roads are in good condition and 1 out of every 10 bridges are "structurally deficient." The numbers in our state aren't much better, but officials are trying to change that.

The Department of Transportation Division II office says over the next 10 years, we will replace 32 bridges in Pitt County. The first 22 will be completed in the next 3 years.

9 On Your Side wanted to know how a bridge is rated and prioritized for repair. So we followed around bridge inspectors to get answers.

Every two years inspectors are required to evaluate bridge conditions. On Wednesday, they checked out a bridge on Old Creek Road in Greenville. 

"Our primary responsibility in a bridge inspection is to ensure the safety of the bridge." Billy Littleton, an inspector of 29 years, said.

The process starts by taking pictures--- a bridge's appearance can tell you a lot about its condition. The photo session is then followed by a hands-on assessment.

"We look at all the elements to find any deterioration that may affect the load carrying capabilities of this bridge." Littleton said.

Upon the completion of their inspection, the crew rated the 38-year-old timber bridge in fair condition, which DOT says should last another 12 years.

"Historically there hasn't been enough money to keep up with the replacements of all the bridges. I mean that's why what we do is really important."

This year the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the United States a "D+" for overall infrastructure. They conducted a comprehensive review that included the nation's roads, bridges and waterways. 

In comparison, the organization gave North Carolina a "C." They suggest the state increase spending by $281 million a year to reduce the backlog of old bridges overdue for replacement.

"I don't think they are over exaggerating, I mean there are structures that need more work but we make sure they are up to par." Jeff Odom, Area "C" Bridge Inspection Supervisor said.

"Over the next 4 years we anticipate in state funds to get alone, $28.6 million and then federally we're probably looking at over $11 million." Maria Rogerson, Division II Bridge Program Manager said.

Rogerson told 9 On Your Side there is adequate funding now, but says there wasn't before 2011. Many of today's bridges were built during the Eisenhower- era, which also means that many of them are due for replacement.

So if money is pulled away from these projects, it could cause some serious issues.

9 On Your Side has compiled a list of bridges labeled as "structurally deficient" and/or "functionally obsolete.

  • A bridge is Structurally Deficient if it is in relatively poor condition, or has insufficient load-carrying capacity. The insufficient load capacity could be due to the original design or to deterioration.
  • A bridge is considered Functionally Obsolete  if it is narrow, has inadequate under-clearances, has insufficient load-carrying capacity, is poorly aligned with the roadway, and can no longer adequately service today's traffic.


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