Thousands of Texas bridges need repairs, replacement



Bio | Email | Follow: @AndyP_KVUE

Posted on May 24, 2013 at 5:21 PM

Updated Friday, May 24 at 5:41 PM

Texans drive over thousands of bridges in need of repairs or replacement each day. As of February 2013, the state identified 8,764 bridges considered functionally obsolete or structurally deficient.

Despite that figure, the majority of bridges in the state are in good shape.

There are 1,282 bridges identified as ‘structurally deficient.’ Those bridges require urgent need of major repairs or replacements, but not necessarily dangerous to drive over. Those bridges account for about 2.5 percent of the state's more than 50,000 bridges.

The remaining 7,483 bridges are identified as 'functionally obsolete.' Former University of Texas engineering professor Karl Frank says those bridges are dangerous due to their out-dated design, not necessarily in need of immediate replacement. 

"The functionally obsolete bridges, which a majority of them are on the list, means they’re geometry is not correct. They may not have enough clearance for a road passing underneath or they may need a wider road," explained Frank.

On Thursday, a bridge in Washington State collapsed after a semi-truck hit it. The state considered the bridge functionally obsolete.

In February, President Obama emphasized the need to fix aging infrastructure like bridges.

“So tonight, I propose a 'Fix-it-First' program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country,” Obama said during his State of the Union speech.

Some Texas lawmakers say paying for those bridge replacements will require more money from taxpayers.

"How are we going to fix, not kick the can literally down the road as we have in the past, but actually fix the problem?" State Representative Drew Darby said to KVUE earlier this year. Darby is the former vice chairman of the state's House Transportation Committee.

For Texas to fund future bridges, Darby says the legislature needs to consider something hard to swallow for many Republicans -- increase user fees and taxes.

Registration fees have not changed in Texas since 1985, and lawmakers have not increased the gas tax in 22 years. Darby says Texas' increasing population will require faster infrastructure upgrades.

"If the demographers are right, there will be about 33 million folks [in Texas] by 2030. So, if you think the traffic is bad today, just hang on and wait. It’s gonna get a whole lot worse" said Darby.

The San Angelo Republican says the state should also consider adding a tax or fee to electric-powered vehicles. Owners of those vehicles typically pay less or no gas tax at all.