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Bridge Report: Nine Percent in Idaho “Structurally Deficient”

October 10, 2011

BOISE, Idaho - Here's something to think about when driving to work or school this week: Nine percent of bridges in Idaho are classified as "structurally deficient." And one in 11 are deteriorating, to some degree.

That data comes from Transportation for America (T4 America), along with a price tag for fixing the bridges in the worst shape - $278 from each Idaho driver.

Idaho Smart Growth Executive Director Rachel Winer says that burden could be lowered, with federal help, and a couple of proposals are already in Congress.

"We need to get caught up on the backlog of repairs, so our roads and bridges are safe for everyone - including bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers."

Winer says both the "Preservation and Renewal of Federal-Aid Highways Act" and the "American Jobs Act" would help pave the way for safer bridges in the Gem State - with the added benefit of putting people to work.

Bridges are generally designed to last 50 years, yet many are older than that in Idaho, according to T4 America. Winer points out that rural communities are most likely to be home to bridges in need of repair. In Lincoln, Owyhee, Fremont, Adams and Nez Perce counties, she says 20 percent or more are in bad shape.

That situation brings up another possibility for funding repairs, Winer says.

"We're also looking at the Idaho level, at local communities having the opportunity to prioritize and pay for what's important to them."

Idaho lawmakers would have to clear the way for that by approving local option taxes. Right now, only resort-community residents can decide whether or not to levy local sales taxes for transportation projects.

State statistics are available from T4 America at http://t4america.org/resources/bridges/states.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID