West Virginia Interstate Highway crosses the nation’s worst bridges


June 26 – MORGANTOWN – West Virginia ranks worst in the country for deterioration of interstate highway bridges and tied for seventh for interstate roadway condition, according to a new report released this month here by TRIP, a national not-for-profit transportation research organization.

The report is called “America’s Interstate Highway System at 65” and examines the conditions in each state and how much it will cost to upgrade the entire system. It is taken from a report commissioned by Congress in 2015 and produced and published by the Transportation Research Board – a division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine – in 2019.

The Interstate Highway System covers 48,482 miles, on routes ranging from just 18 miles to over 3,000 miles, TRIP said.

TRIP said that 41% of West Virginia interstate bridges are 50 years or older; 13% are rated structurally poor / deficient, meaning they show significant signs of wear on the bridge deck, supports or other components. The Federal Highway Administration says bridges in this category need immediate rehabilitation to remain open, are limited to lighter traffic, or are closed.

Among West Virginia’s neighbors, Pennsylvania ranks seventh, with 4% of its interstate bridges rated poor / structurally deficient.

In the area of ​​pavement quality, 11% of the country’s highways are rated poor, that is, cracked or broken. West Virginia is tied with neighbor Ohio for seventh with 3% of interstate highway pavement rated poor.

Maryland and Pennsylvania are among the states tied for fifth, with 5% bad.

TRIP said: “The interstate highway system has a persistent and growing backlog of physical and operational impairments due to age, heavy use and deferred reinvestment, and is in need of reconstruction and development. ‘major modernization. “

Most interstate road segments retain their original underlying foundations and need to be completely rebuilt from the subbase, Trip said. “Repeated resurfacing – rather than solving the fundamental underlying problems – offers diminishing returns, as additional resurfacing results in increasingly shorter periods of pavement smoothing and is likely to incur life cycle costs. higher than periodic reconstruction. “

TRIP said modernization of the entire system must include reconstruction of the majority of interstate highways and bridges, including their foundations; upgrading most interchanges to improve their operation and safety; adding capacity along existing corridors, building new roads and converting some existing roads to interstate standards; modification of certain urban segments to maintain connectivity while addressing economic and social disruption; and, improving road safety characteristics.

It will cost a bundle. There is a backlog of $ 123 billion: $ 54 billion in pavement repairs, $ 37 billion in bridge work and $ 33 billion in improvements and expansions.

The Transportation Research Board estimates that to address the many shortcomings, Congress will need to increase annual appropriations for the Interstate Highway System from $ 24 billion (in 2018) to $ 57 billion over the next 20 years.

Congress is debating an infrastructure project that would add $ 579 billion over the next five years, as well as a re-appropriation of $ 394 billion over the same period. The proposal would spend $ 110 billion in new spending on roads, bridges and major projects over five years.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito answered a question about the report and West Virginia Bridges at a press conference this week. She said, “There are many things the federal government can and should do and will do to help repair our bridges and roads.

When the environment and public works committee – of which she is a leading member – adopted her five-year surface transport plan, she included a reserve for bridges and believes that the infrastructure package must same. Then it must be adopted by the Senate and the House and reach the President. “We have to do it now,” she said.

Mike Clowser, president of the West Virginia Business and Industry Council and executive director of the Contractors Association of West Virginia, submitted a comment with the release of the TRIP report.

“West Virginia has made great strides over the past four years in building and rehabilitating its interstate and secondary highway system,” he said. “Gov. Jim Justice defended his $ 1.6 billion Roads to Prosperity road bond amendment, and the West Virginia legislature increased the revenues of the State Road Fund.

“This provided additional funding for the freeways but, as TRIP notes, Congress must act to re-authorize a federal highway funding bill,” Clowser said. “State enterprises need a safe and modern transportation system to move goods and services. Swift passage of a new federal freeway bill will allow West Virginia to meet its critical transportation infrastructure needs.

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