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Study: 236 bridges in D.C. area considered structurally deficient

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Every year, hundreds of millions of drivers per day take rides over bridges and overpasses across America. A new report indicates just how badly that infrastructure needs upgrading, though.

A report released Wednesday by Transportation for America shows that nearly 11 percent of bridges nationwide - or 1 in 9 - are considered structurally deficient by Federal Highway Administration standards.

In the District of Columbia, though, that percentage is even higher, and some of the most visible and highly-used bridges within the nation's capital have major failings.

Included on the list in D.C. itself include portions of the Arlington Memorial Bridge, Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and the Key Bridge. Also noted on the list includes the New York Avenue Northeast bridge that spans a set of train tracks just east of Florida Avenue. All told, nearly 13 percent of the bridges and overpasses in Washington are considered deficient.

When factoring in each of the major counties and cities that comprise the D.C. area, the FHA considers 236 bridges structurally deficient - just more than 5 percent of the 4,429 bridges counted in the tally.

A bridge that's structurally deficient is defined by the Administration is one that requires significant rehabilitation, repair or replacement. These bridges aren't necessarily unsafe, but highway officials consider them at risk for needing major work done.

Jurisdiction Total Bridges
Structurally Deficient
Percentage Deficient
District of Columbia 242 31 12.81%
Montgomery County 466 25 5.36%
Prince George's County 550 27 4.91%
Frederick County 472 32 6.78%
Howard County 267 13 4.87%
Anne Arundel County 359 9 2.51%
Calvert County 31 2 6.45%
St. Mary's County 48 2 4.17%
Charles County 88 6 6.82%
Fairfax County 666 23 3.45%
Arlington County 167 6 3.59%
City of Alexandria 54 3 5.56%
Loudoun County 330 11 3.33%
Prince William County 268 14 5.22%
Fauquier County 225 15 6.67%
Spotsylvania County 98 9 9.18%
Stafford County 98 8 8.16%
Total 4429 236 5.33%

Pennsylvania has the highest percentage of deficient bridges in the nation, according to the study; 24.5 percent of bridges in the Keystone State are badly in need of repair. On the flip side, Florida bridges and overpasses are by and large the safest in the United States - just 2.2 percent of the 11,987 bridges there are considered deficient.

The District has the 16th highest deficiency percentage in America, while Maryland and Virginia are ranked 31st and 40th respectively.

“If we took those bridges (in need of immediate repair or replacement) and laid them end to end, they'd stretch all the way from where I'm standing here in Washington, DC, to Denver, Colorado,” said John Robert Smith, Transportation for America co-chair.

Part of the problem is that congress eliminated a dedicated bridge repair fund last summer, so bridge repairs now have to compete with other projects for money.

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