Author: L. Joe Boyer
Bridges are an essential part of our nation’s infrastructure. The safe passage of fellow citizens and the efficient delivery of goods and services depends on reliable bridges. As a trained engineer, my fascination with bridges began very early. I am also painfully aware of the important role bridges play in our daily lives and how much we take them for granted.
Here are some statistics* about US bridges that I found staggering:
- There are more than 617,000 bridges across the US
- 42% of all bridges are at least 50 years old, with the average age being 44 years
- 46,154 are in “poor” condition
Given these alarming facts, I often ask, are we paying enough attention to America’s bridges?
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), 178 million daily trips are taken across bridges that are classified in “poor” condition. The cumulative result of this neglect is $125 billion of backlog in bridges requiring repair.
As the nation’s bridges continue to age, each of us is aware of the imminent need to build new and maintain existing bridges. New technologies, more modern materials, innovative evaluation techniques, and pioneering construction methods have provided advances in recent years to meet this challenge.
The new administration’s American Rescue Plan to rebuild our country’s infrastructure includes $631 billion that will fix the most economically significant large bridges in the country. This investment will also repair 10,000 smaller bridges, including those that provide critical connections to rural and tribal communities.
Atlas plays an important role in improving our nation’s bridges and infrastructure. In Georgia, Atlas is replacing a 66-year-old fracture critical steel truss bridge on the State Route 53 at Lake Lanier design build project. Our team developed an innovative design for the replacement bridge that saved $3 million dollars in construction cost. Additionally, we are inspecting and designing structural repairs on significant bridges such as the New York’s Verrazano-Narrows, California’s Golden Gate and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges, helping to extend the lives of these iconic American structures.
Not only are we focused on building and repairing bridges, but Atlas is working to make them more “shovel worthy” – providing much-needed access and mobility for ambulances, fire trucks or school buses. We have teamed with partners to replace posted and deficient bridges across the country with the goal of ensuring safe passage and enabling the economy to thrive. In Texas, Atlas is working on the replacement of the US 181 Harbor Bridge in Corpus Christi. The new bridge will accommodate larger ships, be the longest cable-stay bridge in the U.S. and Canada, and the tallest structure in South Texas, when completed. Most recently, we developed plans to replace a bridge posted for weight limitations in Newton County, Georgia over the Yellow River with construction planned for September 2021.
Infrastructure Week is an ideal time to refocus our attention on America’s aging infrastructure and vigorously address this daunting challenge.
I, the Atlas team, our partners, and our entire industry believe NOW is the time to cross this bridge because we’ve come to it!
Joe Boyer is the CEO of Atlas Technical Consultants