Apr 10, 2024 - News

The state of Pennsylvania's bridges

Share of bridges in poor condition, 2023

Pennsylvania's bridges are second-worst nationwide with more than 3,000 in "poor" condition, per the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

Why it matters: While a series of unlikely accidents, rather than crumbling infrastructure, caused the bridge collapse in Baltimore, the incident has renewed focus on the vulnerability of bridges across the U.S.

State of play: More than half of the 25,400 state-owned highway bridges are in "fair" condition and 13% are "poor," per the Federal Highway Administration's 2023 analysis.

  • More than 12,000 bridges across the Commonwealth need repairs, per ARTBA.
  • The number of state bridges in "poor" condition dropped from more than 3,500 in 2019.
  • The average age of our bridges is at least 50 years, per PennDOT.

Zoom in: About 6% of Philadelphia County's 584 state bridges are "poor" compared with about 13% — or 79 — in "good" condition, per PennDOT.

  • More than half of our state bridges are "fair."

What they're saying: Philadelphia officials say they're confident in the safety of the region's river crossings, per WHYY.

  • The Delaware River Port Authority says the bridges in the area have collision prevention systems that are constantly inspected. They range from rock islands to concrete barriers called "dolphins" that force ships to run aground before they can strike piers.

Yes, but: The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Pennsylvania a "C-" in its latest infrastructure report card.

  • "Progress is real, but challenges remain," the organization said.

The big picture: The U.S. Department of Transportation considers 6.8% of the over 600,000 bridges it tracks and rates nationally to be in "poor" shape, Axios' Will Chase reports.

  • That doesn't sound too bad on a percentage basis, but it's over 40,000 bridges in total.

Breaking it down: West Virginia, Iowa, South Dakota and Rhode Island fare the worst, with 15% to 20% of the bridges in each of those states rated "poor."

  • Georgia has the highest percentage of "good" bridges (75%), while in Arizona, Nevada and Texas just 1% of bridges are "poor."

Go deeper


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more