Most of us don’t think much about it, but most commuters probably pass over or under at least one or two bridges every day on their way to and from work. According to a report released yesterday, over 1400 bridges in Michigan are considered structurally deficient. That number represents 13% of the bridges in this state and places Michigan near the bottom quarter of all states in the country.
In the aftermath of the tragic I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota back in 2007, bridge safety has been a growing concern nationwide. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) regularly updates bridge information on its website. While MDOT’s investigation and reporting of bridge conditions has improved recently, construction and renovation have struggled to keep up. The average age of Michigan’s bridges is 41 years old, while the expected life span of most bridges is generally considered to be 50 years.
Although these statistics are alarming, it should be pointed out that “structurally deficient” bridges are those that show evidence of wear and tear and deterioration. They are not necessarily unsafe, and their designation means they are inspected more often. Still, this report should give all motorists pause. We take our infrastructure for granted, and when it fails, it often does so without warning and with devastating consequences.