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Bridges, other infrastructure can’t be ignored any longer

Staff Report • Sep 30, 2013 at 9:29 AM

State and local governments face a crisis when it comes to repairing or replacing substandard bridges. And, as we said in this space many times before, given these lean economic and budget times, government officials shouldn’t expect an influx of new tax revenues any time soon to deal with this problem.Recently, the Associated Press analyzed federal data that found there are 65,605 structurally deficient bridges and 20,808 fracture critical bridges in the United States.Some of those structurally deficient bridges can be found right here in our part of Tennessee. As Press staff writer Gary B. Gray reported last Sunday, a recent inspection of 289 bridges revealed that 16 locally maintained bridges and three state-maintained bridges in Washington County are structurally deficient. “We have replaced about 100 bridges in the past 30 years,” Johnny Deakins, Washington County Highway Department superintendent, told Gray. “We don’t have any that are critical, but we do have some that are in poor condition.”Just exactly what is a bridge in poor condition, and should drivers be worried about crossing one? This crumbling infrastructure is a serious problem. Aging bridges pose a public safety hazard and are a real obstacle to the economic well-being of our communities.It’s time for public officials to begin serious planning for the future. Elected leaders have to do a better job of deciding which bridge projects should go at the top of the list and how their repairs should be paid for. And, as we’ve noted before, politicians must do a better job of making the case for these infrastructure improvements to taxpayers who feel they are overburdened already.

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