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During President Obama's most recent State of the Union address, a little-known problem plaguing the safety of America's motorists was highlighted in significant ways. President Obama educated the nation about the fact that approximately 65,000 to 70,000 bridges nationwide are structurally deficient. Certainly, some of these bridges are also functionally obsolete and therefore pose little danger to the public. However, a great many of these bridges, as well as dangerous roads and highways are widely traveled upon daily.

The tragic bridge collapse in the Twin Cities area several years ago and the recent bridge collapse in Washington have also heightened the public's awareness of this critical issue. The question has now become, what can the federal government, states and safety organizations do to fix this pressing problem?

Perhaps most importantly, federal lawmakers can roll back the actions they took last summer that basically eliminated the nation's bridge fund. Since 1991, money to repair deficient bridges was largely funneled through the country's dedicated bridge fund. Last summer, the annual transportation bill passed by Congress scrapped that fund. Given that nine out of every ten American bridges is currently in need of safety repairs, that action seems particularly foolish.

Unlike certain road repairs, bridge repairs cannot be deferred indefinitely. Many bridges in America were constructed with a projected lifespan of 50 years before significant structural repairs would be required for them to continue to operate safely. Thousands of bridges have exceeded their expiration dates. How many more bridges will need to collapse nationwide before legislators take this issue seriously?

Source: Transportation for America, "About those 66,000+ deficient bridges: What did last summer's transportation law change?" Stephen Lee Davis, May 30, 2013

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