May 6, 2024 - News

What to know about the safety of Virginia's bridges

Map of U.S. states showing the share of bridges in poor condition in 2023. Overall, 6.8% of bridges are in poor condition. West Virginia and Iowa have the highest share among states, with nearly 20% in poor condition. Arizona has the lowest, with just 1.1%.
Data: Federal Highway Administration; Map: Will Chase and Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Drivers cross Virginia bridges in "poor" or worse condition more than 2.2 million times a day, according to a report from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

Why it matters: Baltimore's fatal bridge collapse has put a renewed focus on the vulnerability of bridges across the U.S.

The big picture: The Department of Transportation considers 3.5% ā€” or 498
ā€” of Virginia's 14,000-plus bridges to be poor, a rate that's better than 39 other states.

  • Nationwide, 6.8% of bridges are in poor shape. West Virginia has the highest rate at nearly 20% of its bridges.
  • A third of our bridges are in good condition. About 63% are fair.

Zoom in: At least 52 of Virginia's bridges have been in "poor" condition for more than 10 years, per an Axios analysis of National Bridge Inventory data.

  • Of those, 14 are in the Richmond area. Eight of the 14 were built before the 1930s, our analysis found.
  • And nearly half of Virginia bridges are nearing the 50-year mark when they'll need repairs or replacement, according to a September report from TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit.

Yes, but: A bridge being in poor condition doesn't mean it's unsafe or about to collapse, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

  • If a bridge is considered in poor condition, it's inspected each year and put on a priority list for repair or replacement, according to the Times-Dispatch.

Plus: Fewer Virginia bridges are needing repairs now (6,346) than in 2019 (6,455).

  • Nationwide, the number of bridges rated poor, or an equivalent metric, by the federal government's bridge inventory has fallen from 15% in 2000 to 6.8% in 2023.

What's next: Virginia will receive nearly $600 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act over five years that can go toward making needed bridge repairs, according to the association's report.

Go deeper: Biden wants federal funds to rebuild Baltimore bridge.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to note that Virginia's share of bridges in poor condition is better than that of 39 other states (not better than all but those states).

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Richmond.

šŸŒ±

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Richmond stories

Richmondpostcard

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

šŸŒ±

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more