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Report: More than 300 State and Local Bridges in CT deficient

Report: More than 300 State and Local Bridges in CT deficient

CT Post, September 24, 2018

By Bill Cummings

More than 300 bridges in Connecticut — carrying 4.3 million vehicles daily — are structurally deficient and in need of repair or replacement, according to a new report.

A structurally deficient designation means there is significant deterioration to major components of the bridge — but does not mean the structure is unsafe to use.

The report mirrors similar studies of Connecticut’s aging infrastructure, and was quickly promoted as a rallying point for more transportation spending. It was released Thursday by TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research group.

“The bottom line is we know Connecticut has a problem,” said State Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Wethersfield, and co-chairman of the legislature’s transportation committee.

“We have to address this sooner than later,” Guerrera said, referring to the need for additional funding. “If you want to bring business back to the state, you better have infrastructure that works.”

The 308 bridges ranked in the report as structurally deficient include a Rt. 8 bridge over the Housatonic River in Shelton; a Rt. 15 bridge over the Saugatuck River in Westport and the Sackett Point Road bridge over the Quinnipiac River in North Haven.

Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said TRIP lumps together state and municipal owned bridges, noting there are 209 structurally deficient state-owned bridges.

Nursick also pointed out the percentage of deficient state bridges has dropped from 8.6 percent in 2012 to 5.2 percent in 2017.

He said state bridges are regularly inspected and repairs are made to keep them safe.

“The trend is going downwards,” Nursick said. “But we have more bridges reaching their silver age. It becomes a bigger challenge. It’s expected that they get to this point and it triggers a more robust repair, replace and reconstruction program.”  

Bridges and jobs back to top

Lawmakers for the past several years have wrestled with the need for more money to fix and replace aging bridges and ease congestion on the state’s highways, even considering unpopular ideas such as electronic highway tolls.

The state gas tax, because cars have become more fuel efficient, is not providing sufficient money to cover repair and replacement costs and the federal government is sending less funding to the states.

“The public does not want to pay more taxes,” said state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, a co-chairwoman of the transportation committee and an opponent of tolls.

The TRIP report stressed that the condition of roads, highways and bridges is critical to the state’s economy.

“Businesses rely on an efficient and dependable transportation system to move products and services,” the report said.

Amy Parmenter, spokesperson for Triple A in Greater Hartford, said ranking bridges is not meant to strike fear in motorists.

“The idea of our bridges being structurally deficient is not intended to frighten people,” Parmenter said. “It’s intended to underscore the importance of investing in our infrastructure before it’s too late.”

Most of the state’s bridges were built in the 1950s and 1960s and the average age of a structurally deficient bridge in Connecticut is 69 years old.

Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, said more funding is needed to repair and replace aging bridges.

“It’s getting old and things are falling apart, and it’s about time there is a serious discussion in this state,” Schubert said.

Nursick agreed that a “reliable source of funding” is needed to ensure bridges do not deteriorate to the point where they have to be closed.

“We can keep you safe, but without proper funding you will see the numbers get to an unmanageable place,” Nursick said.

Boucher said a recent study showed that the state DOT pays among the highest administrative costs in the country, which she said means money that could be used for repair and replacement is being wasted.

“We will have a new executive branch in November and let’s hope, no matter which side wins, that they will be more interested in management,” Boucher said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, laid the blame on Washington, D.C.

“Our outdated, outmoded and potentially dangerous bridges and other structures desperately need robust federal investment,” Blumenthal said, noting the TRIP report should land on President Donald Trump’s desk.