Area, U.S. bridges need rehab and replacement, study says

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Local,Maryland,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley
Every 42 seconds a driver in the Washington region crosses over a bridge that is need of repair, according to a new report from the pro-infrastructure coalition Transportation for America.

The group examined data from the federal government to determine that 5.7 percent of bridges in the Washington metropolitan area are "structurally deficient," meaning that the bridges are "in need of more frequent monitoring and critical, near-term maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement," according to the report released today.

The data were released just after the Maryland State Highway Administration announced that inspectors found hairline cracks in several brand-new bridges crossing the Intercounty Connector in Montgomery County.

Contractors will have to pay for those repairs and come up with a solution to solve a "design flaw" that caused the cracks on the three bridges spanning the Connector on Emory Lane, Needwood Road and Georgia Avenue.

Officials will close lanes this week and next week to wrap cables around the support piers where the cracks appeared to keep them from getting wider, ICC project spokesman Ray Feldmann said.

An earlier report from Transportation for America showed that only 6.9 percent of Maryland's bridges are deficient, compared with 12.3 percent in the District and 9.4 percent in Virginia.

Overall the Washington metropolitan area is only 19th on the list compared to similar cities nationwide. Pittsburgh hit the top, with 30 percent of its bridges deficient.

District Department of Transportation spokesman John Lisle said D.C. has been using federal stimulus funds "aggressively" to fix up bridges.

"We have approximately 230 bridges in the city, and they are all safe. Some of them are certainly getting older, but we have a program to repair or replace them as quickly as we can," he said. "I don't think there's anything for anyone to worry about. Our bridges are safe."

Bob Chase, president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, agreed that the District does a good job maintaining bridges. He said the bigger problem for the Washington area is its lack of bridges spanning the Potomac.

"The biggest reason we're No. 1 in congestion is we have very few bridges that connect Maryland and Virginia," he said.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner