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Steve Blackledge,
U.S. PIRG

New Report: Hundreds of WA Bridges Structurally Deficient

For Immediate Release

With President Obama calling for robust investments to repair America’s crumbling roads and bridges, the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG) released data today documenting the number of “structurally deficient” bridges in Washington State.

Breaking down data county-by-county, the “Fix-It-First: Washington State Bridges” report finds that a total of 394 bridges in Washington, or 5.1 percent of all bridges, are rated structurally deficient by government standards, while 2,534 are at least 50 years old – the lifespan for which most bridges are designed.

Although it is estimated that it would cost $2.31 billion to bring all of the state’s bridges into a state of good repair, Washington spent only $93 million on bridge repair in 2008, the most recent year for which full data is available.

 “While highway builders have long lobbied for more roads and ever-wider highways to boost their profits, we cannot afford to waste scarce taxpayer dollars on new capacity before we fix what we already have,” said WashPIRG advocate Steve Breaux. “Even a growing family doesn’t add a room to a house before they fix a leaky roof.”

The report found that delaying needed maintenance can cost taxpayers up to three times as much down the line, largely because construction costs tend to outpace the general rate of inflation. Meanwhile, repair projects create 16 percent more jobs than new highway projects – a fact that could be leveraged to get more people back to work during tough economic times.

Although major spans like the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the 520 floating bridge are high-profile projects that get plenty of attention, hundreds of smaller bridges in need of repair across Washington are often overlooked.

“In King County, 4.3 percent of bridges are structurally deficient, but the amount is more than ten percent in some rural communities,” said Breaux. “In Pend Oreille County, 17.3 percent of bridges are deficient.”

“With tight budgets and stubbornly high unemployment, President Obama’s call to repair our infrastructure is on target. The ‘Fix-it-first’ approach saves money, improves safety, creates jobs, and gets the most out of our transportation bucks,” Breaux added.

Of Washington’s 39 counties, only four – Grant, Island, San Juan and Thurston – had no deficient bridges.

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