When bridges are designed and constructed, they are usually not expected to last longer than 50 years without further boost to the infrastructural and periodical repairs. In New York more than 40% of the bridges are older than that. It is estimated that by year 2030 this figure will go up to 70%. In addition, NY has some of the heaviest traffic in the nation. This, when coupled with the fact that the funds allocated for the upkeep and maintenance of bridges are grossly insufficient, does very little to mitigate the danger of the situation.
In 2010, the total number of bridges in New York was put at 17,365 of which 7,545 are owned by the state. A study conducted by the Transportation for America – a coalition that aims to bring in transportation reforms in the nation – reports that 12% of these, totaling 2,088 bridges, are unsound and deficient structurally. This figure puts New York 23rd on the list of states with the most deficient bridges, led by Oklahoma, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
In New York, Bronx has been identified as having the maximum number of structurally deficient bridges, with the percentage standing at 18%. Brooklyn stands next in line at 13%, while Manhattan is close on its heels at 12%.
And, among all the deficient bridges in the state, Verrazano has been identified as the most unstable and dangerous. With an average daily traffic of about 170,000 people, this bridge is literally ‘buckling under’ one of the highest traffic volumes in New York.
However, in answer to the report published by Transportation for America, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has rushed to assure the commuters of the state that Verrazano – its youngest as well as longest bridge – is sound as well as safe.
The spokesperson for MTA believes that Transportation for America takes its data from an older inspection that was conducted in 2008. The most recent inspection carried out in 2010 has given the Verrazano an all-clear signal, saying that the bridge is “structurally sound with no red flags or imminent structural problems”.
And, in a recently released data by the Port Authority, Staten Island commuters have yet another cause for worry as the Goethals Bridge accounts of 55% of accidents in the area last year. Since the lanes on this particular bridge are only 10-feet wide, most of the accidents are caused by sideswipes and rear end collisions.
While the game continues to identify the worst, or the most dangerous, or even the most unstable bridge in New York, the moot point remains – an overwhelming 12% of the bridges in the state are structurally unsound and potentially dangerous. What steps are being taken to make the commuters feel safe and secure? That is the million dollar question.