New research has revealed that US states are failing to spend Federal stimulus money on repairing tens of thousands of unsafe or decaying bridges, choosing instead to fund easier projects, such as repaving roads or repairing non-critical spans.
The analysis by the Associated Press found that almost half of the 2,476 bridges due to receive stimulus money have received high inspection ratings, yet will still share in more than $1.2 billion (£725,000,000) for works.
Meanwhile, 70% of the $17 billion (£10 billion) in transportation stimulus money approved so far under President Obama`s administration has gone towards repaving or widening roads, which requires less planning than bridge repairs and can be done quickly.
Just 12% of the funding has gone towards bridge projects, despite President Obama telling Congress last winter that much of the economic recovery money was needed to rebuild America`s “crumbling bridges”.
These deficient structures need £39 billion of the overall £476 billion package, but work is often neglected until a catastrophe such as the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse.
Data from the US Transportation Department revealed that more than half of states work on fewer than two dozen bridges, with 18 states planning work on fewer than 10. At the same time, at least half of the bridge projects funded by stimulus money in 24 states were not deficient.
“The feds had their own priorities, and their big priority was jobs and the economy,” said spokesman for the Vermont Agency of Transportation John Zicconi. “As a result, we had to move things quickly. I don’t fault that. Nobody put the stimulus together as an answer to all our bridge issues. It was about putting people to work.”