LITTLE ROCK (7-31) 

Members of the Arkansas Highway Commission were given a status report about the condition of bridges in the state at the Commission’s July 30 meeting in Little Rock . The report was made by the staff of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD).

 “The first anniversary of the I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota will be this Friday, August 1st,” AHTD Director Dan Flowers told the Commission. “That tragedy serves as a grim reminder of the importance of adequately funding needed transportation improvements. Major transportation networks can be rendered useless if even the smallest link, such as a bridge, fails to perform as it should.”

 Overall, Arkansas ’ bridge conditions rank favorably when compared to conditions around the country. For example:

 ·        The nation’s bridge inventory shows nearly 600,000 total bridges with an average age of 43 years. There are 12,531 total bridges in Arkansas . This includes 7,243 on state highways, 4,380 on county roads, and 908 on city streets. The average age of Arkansas ’ bridges is 35 years.

 ·        Twelve percent (12%) of the nation’s bridges are categorized as structurally deficient, which means deterioration, cracks, or other flaws have been detected in bridge components that need to be monitored and/or repaired.  A structurally deficient rating does not mean a bridge is in imminent danger. In Arkansas , eight percent (8%) of the total bridges in the state are considered structurally deficient, while only four percent (4%) of bridges on the state highway system fall in that category.

 ·        In the functionally obsolete category, which means a bridge doesn’t meet current design standards for items such as shoulder width or vertical clearance, thirteen percent (13%) of the nation’s bridges are considered deficient in that regard, while fifteen percent (15%) of Arkansas’ total bridges are in that category. Thirteen percent (13%) of bridges on state highways in Arkansas are functionally obsolete, which is equal to the national average.

      “We estimate it would take approximately $1.6 billion over the next ten years to address all our deficient bridge needs in Arkansas ,” Flowers said. “It would take a major financial commitment of both federal and state funds to eliminate all structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges from our state highways, county roads, and city streets. Unfortunately, we don’t have the funds available to make all those needed improvements at this time.”

 Inflation has taken its toll on bridge construction costs over the years, the Commission was told. In 1977, $25 million could build 136 bridges measuring 40 feet wide and 200 feet in length. Today, that same amount of money could only build 30 of the same type structures.

 The presentation also noted that Arkansas has taken steps recently to improve its bridge inspection program. The AHTD is in the process of doubling the number of personnel trained to inspect bridges, going from 20 to 40. This increase in inspectors was initiated prior to the Minnesota collapse, but its implementation has taken on greater significance since that event. “We’ve had an excellent bridge inspection program in Arkansas for many years,” Flowers noted. “But with the greater emphasis that is being placed on bridge inspections since the Minnesota collapse, I’m pleased that we had already taken the initiative to upgrade our program.”

 Commission Chairman Jonathan Barnett of Siloam Springs said that the Commission is deeply concerned about funding for transportation in general, not just bridges. “We’ve got to find a way to invest more money in our country’s infrastructure before failures like the one in Minnesota begin occurring more frequently,” Barnett said. “But on a positive note, I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with limited funding in Arkansas , and I think our bridge program is a good example of getting the most out of our available funds.”





For Further Information Contact:

Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department
10324 Interstate 30, Little Rock, AR 72209
Tel: 501-569-2000
FAX: 501-569-2400