Bridges will be expensive for us and our decedents

IMG_0413Here’s something that’s unfortunate but not surprising: Utah’s bridges are aging and are going to cost a fortune to maintain.

My colleague Lee Davidson reported yesterday that by the end of the decade 32 percent of Utah’s bridges will be 50 years old or older. By 2030, that number will rise to more than half of all bridges.

But here’s the part that is going to hit people in the pocket book:

Carlos Braceras, UDOT executive director, has told legislators that means while Utah has been replacing about 15 bridges annually in recent years, “we will have to step that up to 50 a year” soon. That will cost an extra $9 million a year, he says, and is among reasons to consider raising gas taxes.

Bridges are a nessecary part of our transportation network and maintaining them is important.

What’s unfortunate about this situation is that our car-centric urban design has produced more and bigger bridges that we otherwise might not have needed. How many of these bridges span freeways and stroads, for example? And how many of those bridges had to be massive in scale (and therefore in cost) because we’ve been widening our freeways lately? I can think of a few just off the top of my head, including this one:

Utah’s bridges are doing well right now, but the article notes that after 50 years they tend to deteriorate rapidly.

And like so much of our transportation infrastructure, we’ve been spending and building with little regard to the longterm costs. Now those costs are catching up to us.

Worse still, there seems to be little indication that we’re become more frugal or responsible with our spending. In fact, the video above is part of a recent bridge-building spree that will ensure that our children and grandchildren also have to figure out ways to fix overbuilt car infrastructure.


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