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ASME: Colorado’s Aging Roads, Bridges Need Help

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Rainbow Arch Bridge in Colorado

The photographer writes: “Colo. Hwy. 52
National Register 2/4/1985, 5MR.471
‘Charles Sheely’s Colorado Bridge and Construction Company completed this multi-span, reinforced concrete fixed rainbow arch in 1923. Based on a design patented by Iowa engineer James Marsh, it is the only Marsh arch in Colorado and is reportedly the last bridge built by Sheely’ — Description from the History Colorado website.”

A new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ACSE) gives Colorado’s roads a report card grade of “D” (“poor”) and its bridges a “C+.” ACSE’s “2013 Report Card for American’s Infrastructure” gives infrastructure in the entire United States a cumulative GPA of “D+.” The report says $3.6 trillion is needed to raise the U.S.’ low grade, which will also improve the quality of life and create jobs, Andrea Germanos writes for Common Dreams.

According to the report’s Colorado section, 907 of the state’s 8,591 bridges are functionally obsolete, and 566 of the bridges are structurally deficient. In addition, 70% of Colorado’s 88,266 miles of public roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

The report notes that inferior infrastructure can jeopardize public safety:

Over the last few years it has been hard to ignore the national problem of inadequately funded infrastructure. From Mississippi River levee failures to the collapse of an interstate bridge in Minneapolis, the crisis in infrastructure has made national news. Colorado has experienced failures such as the sinkhole closing I‐25 in Denver caused by a water main break, and a sinkhole closing on I-70 near Vail due to erosion around a culvert. Unless a plan is prepared to maintain and improve our infrastructure, these types of events will become more common. Currently we rate Colorado’s infrastructure as average and declining in condition. […]

Our first priority as a state should be to rebuild the state’s crumbling infrastructure. If we do not, we risk the lives of our citizens and the health of our economy.

The I-70 bridge viaduct in Denver is “a prime example” of what happens when bridges come of age without sufficient funding to repair them, the report says. The report’s authors define a “structurally deficient” bridge as one whose components are in poor condition.

“While not necessarily unsafe, these bridges may have limits for speed and weight,” the report notes. A “functionally obsolete” bridge has older design features, and while it is not unsafe for all vehicles, it cannot safely accommodate current volumes of traffic and vehicles of all sizes and weights.

To fix the problems with roads, the report says solutions are available to improve highway conditions, capacity, and safety. It also suggests that people could choose to move closer to workplaces, or telecommute, or use alternative transportation methods.

As for the aging bridges, the report says:

One solution to prevent Colorado’s bridges from deteriorating is to increase funding allocated to CDOT. Of the money a vehicle owner pays for the gas tax, license plate, and car sales tax, only 25% goes to the statewide transportation system. The remaining 75% goes to local government general funds to be used for any purpose. In addition to increased funding, there are other things that should be done to insure a safe and efficient bridge system.

In addition to roads and bridges, the “2013 Report Card for American’s Infrastructure” covers aviation, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks and recreation, rail, schools, solid waste, transit, and wastewater.

You can read what the report says about any U.S. state by clicking on the map: http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/states/

Image by Jeffrey Beall

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