In a 2017 ranking by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Infrastructure Report Card, New Hampshire was found to have 304 bridges within the state deemed “structurally deficient”. Not only does this pose a massive hazard years down the road when the infrastructure finally collapses, but endangers lives across the country right now. According to Abels & Annes, “Another common accident occurs when these surfaces are not secured, which can cause the surface to shift and fall apart. These unsecure surfaces can cause workers to fall and become seriously injured.
Condition of the State
This disturbing figure goes hand in hand with an middling rating overall from the organization, the state holding firmly at C-. This rating, according to the report card, indicates a state’s infrastructure is “mediocre” and requires attention from lawmakers and public officials.
The state’s bridges were also rated a C- themselves. According to records cited in the report, 80% of state-owned bridges were constructed prior to 1980, with over 650 of them exceeding 75 years of age. These factors multiplied by the total number of in the state inventory (3,848) bring the total repair value to $8 billion.
Despite the average bridge having a design life of only 50 years or less, the average age of a bridge in the state of New Hampshire by 2015 was 56. This means that a majority of bridge in the state have already exceeded their expected lifespan. This could lead to an increase in “red-list” bridge, meaning a bridge that requires more frequent inspection and maintenance, as well as restrictions on weight and additional maintenance funding.
The report goes on to mention how, despite the important part bridge play in New Hampshire’s transportation network, their condition continues to decline with age. The current inspection rate for bridge by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation is every two years, with inspection every six months to a year for publicly-owned and privately-owned red-line bridge, respectively.
What Should Officials Do?
With over 12% of the state’s bridges in a state of disrepair, it’s clear something must be done about this problem before people are seriously injured and killed due to an accident. Luckily, there are plans to repair some of the issues facing the state’s infrastructure in the coming years.
The 2017-2026 Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan is set to work with over half the state-owned to improve and repair them during that decade. The report notes, however, that the growing average age of the state’s bridge means that current funding levels will likely not be enough to keep up with maintenance costs.
Based on current activities by the state’s Department of Transportation, it is reasonable to assume most bridge will be part of renovation and replacement projects rather than large scale rebuilding efforts. Additionally, the state has taken steps to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridge according to the report, though only time will tell whether these measures will be enough to keep the state’s infrastructure working efficiently.