Were it not for road crews and commercial divers who assess and fix problems, damaged bridges would further deteriorate, making traveling conditions not only less comfortable, but downright dangerous. While preventive steps are being taken to ensure that the nation's infrastructure remains in good working order for as long as possible, the rate at which bridges are being used has landed tens of thousands on the structurally deficient list.
An estimated 55,710 bridges in the U.S. are structurally compromised, according to the latest study conducted by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. ARTBA recently settled on this number after reviewing inventory data maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation, as the government agency keeps records on bridge maintenance from all 50 states.
"Motorists in the U.S. racked up 3.2 trillion miles last year."
185 million bridge crossings per day
According to the ARTBA's estimates, structurally inadequate bridges are used approximately 185 million times per day. In 2016, motorists drove a combined 3.2 trillion miles on roads and bridges nationwide, based on data from the Federal Highway Administration. It's the fifth year in a row that the total miles driven reached a new record.
Alison Premo Black, ARTBA's chief economist and the study's principal investigator, indicated that to make any substantial headway on the fixes, repair crews need more resources than they have presently.
"America's highway network is woefully underperforming," Black said. "It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization. State and local transportation departments haven't been provided the resources to keep pace with the nation's bridge needs."
Help may be on the way. In March, the National Economic Council, on behalf of the White House, announced a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that would provide the investments commercial divers and departments of public works need to revitalize sewers and bridges.
"America is suffering from a massive infrastructure deficit -crumbling and dilapidated roads, bridges, airports, and tunnels," President Donald Trump said in a statement provided to Time Magazine. "We need members of both parties – partnering with industry and workers – to join together to repair, rebuild and renew the infrastructure of the United States."
"Pennsylvania has the largest amount of structurally deficient bridges."
Nearly 30 percent of US bridges are 50 or older
Part of the issue stems from bridges not being replaced in decades. According to Black, nearly 30 percent of the nation's bridges are at least 50 years old. Pennsylvania, Iowa, Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska each are home to at least 2,000 bridges that are deemed structurally deficient.
There are roughly 614,400 bridges currently in use in the U.S., according to the most recent data from the FHWA. Texas has the most, totaling nearly 53,500. The Lone Star State is also where many commercial divers are employed in a variety of industries, infrastructure and public works among them, according to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Passenger and driver safety is but one of the ways commercial divers are making a difference every day. Fisk Marine Insurance International provides insurance products to serve the commercial diving community, employed in a variety of industries and fields of work.