Hundreds of Connecticut bridges that carry millions vehicles daily are deteriorating and need to be repaired or replaced, according to a report released Sept. 20 by a nonprofit transportation research group.
The report from TRIP, based in Washington, D.C, identifies 308 Connecticut bridges as being structurally deficient—meaning there is significant deterioration to major components of those spans.
The report, Preserving Connecticut's Bridges: The Condition and Funding Needs of Connecticut's Aging Bridge System, calls the bridges "a critical element of the state's transportation system" and the “backbone of the state’s economy.”
The report follows a recent study by CNBC that ranked Connecticut's transportation infrastructure as the fourth-worst in the country.
The TRIP report notes that Connecticut ranks fourth nationally with its share of bridges more than 50 years old.
"As bridges age, they become more costly to keep in a state of good repair," said Rocky Moretti, director of research and policy for TRIP.
"The challenge grows to keep bridges from slipping into worse condition."
Connecticut has 4,254 bridges that are 20 feet or longer. Each bridge is inspected every two years and assigned a rating from one to nine. Any bridge with a rating of four or lower is considered structurally deficient.
That doesn't mean that traffic can't travel across that span, the report said, but it could mean that at some point, weight restrictions are put in place.
A restriction could impact everyday lives as buses, trucks, and emergency vehicles are forced to find alternate routes.
"We can't keep putting Band-Aids on this folks," said state Rep. Tony Guerrera (D-Rocky Hill), co-chair of the legislature's Transportation Committee.
"We have to address this sooner than later—and we've been talking about this for a number of years."
Connecticut's transportation funding issues are well known; earlier this year, Governor Malloy postponed $4.3 billion in transportation projects due to concerns over the solvency of the state's Special Transportation Fund.
Guerrera noted that after the Mianus River Bridge collapse, Connecticut dedicated funds annually for bridge maintenance and repair.
"Back then, we had one of the best bridge programs in the U.S.," he said.
"Then what happened? We had gaps in our budget so the fund got raided."
What happened? We had gaps in our budget so the transportation fund got raided.
"Connecticut's transportation system helps drive our economy," she said.
"Lawmakers must prioritize the safety of our bridges when investing transportation resources to ensure our people and products get safely to their destinations."
The report notes that 59% of state bridges are 50 years or older with an average age of 53.
But the average age of the 308 bridges deemed structurally deficient is 69.
Of the deficient bridges, 65 are in Hartford County, 61 in Fairfield County, and 60 in New Haven County.
Of the 25 most heavily traveled bridges rated structurally deficient in Hartford County, 14 are on Interstate 84 or I-91.
The TRIP report warns the state's ability to improve its transportation system will be hampered "without a substantial boost in federal, state and local funding."
Connecticut commuters are well aware of the poor condition of the state's bridges, roads, and highways—and the rush-hour congestion on those roads, especially in urban areas and Fairfield County.
"There's nothing surprising about this report," said Lyle Wray, executive director of the Capitol Region Council of Government.
But he called the need to act "absolutely crucial."
Guerrera urged Connecticut voters to support a constitutional amendment protecting transportation funding. That amendment is a ballot question voters will act on this November.
"It's so important for us to make sure this gets passed," he said.