Ensuring Bridges Are Not Overlooked
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., understands that when public officials make decisions about infrastructure spending, they prefer new construction over repairs. She is right to be urging that a federal highway funding bill make bridge rehabilitation a priority.
Capito, who chairs the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, wants to maximize the benefits rural states such as ours get from the highway funding bill. She is well aware that West Virginia has a higher percentage than most other states of bridges that are rated as deficient.
Earlier this year, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association released a state-by-state report on highway bridges. Of the 7,269 of them in the Mountain State, 1,444 — or nearly 20% — are rated as structurally deficient. That is up from 922 just five years ago.
As we have emphasized, “structurally deficient” does not mean unsafe. West Virginia Division of Highways officials are quick to shut down dangerous spans.
But the number should raise concerns about the future of many highway bridges.
Capito thinks federal funding ought to make bridges a priority because, as she put it, “if a governor has a choice to build a five-mile, four-lane highway or fix a deficient bridge, we all know what’s going to have a bigger kick back home” with voters.
Precisely. We dislike strings-attached federal funding, but on this one, Capito is right. She should continue pressing fellow lawmakers to agree with her viewpoint.