Of Connecticut’s 4,225 bridges, 357 are structurally deficient (8.4%) and another 1,087 are functionally obsolete. That’s 34 percent of the state’s bridges deemed deficient by experts – and it ranks Connecticut as the 10th worst state in the nation, by percentage. Worse than Connecticut? Only Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Alaska, New York, West Virginia, New Jersey and Maine. The data, compiled by the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, reflects information and analysis through December 31, 2015.
While the number of structurally deficient bridges in Connecticut is the lowest since 2006, the number of functionally obsolete structures has climbed in recent years, and is now the highest since 2010. The total number of bridges in the two categories has dropped in each of the past three years, but remains at about one-third of the state’s bridges. Connecticut ranks 26th in the percentage of structurally deficient bridges.
According to the Nation Bridge Inventory Database website, Structurally Deficient is a status used to describe a bridge that has one or more structural defects that require attention. This status does not indicate the severity of the defect but rather that a defect is present. Conditions driving the designation could include the bridge deck, the superstructure or the substructure of the bridge.
The sufficiency rating is calculated per a formula defined by the Federal Highway Administration, which places 55 percent value on the structural condition of the bridge, 30 percent on its serviceability and obsolescence, and 15 percent on its essentiality to public use. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, “a structurally deficient bridge, when left open to traffic, typically requires significant maintenance and repair to remain in service and eventual rehabilitation or replacement to address deficiencies.”
The category Functionally Obsolete is a status used to describe a bridge that is no longer by design functionally adequate for its task. Reasons for this status include that the bridge doesn't have enough lanes to accommodate the traffic flow, it may be a drawbridge on a congested highway, or it may not have space for emergency shoulders, according to the National Bridge Inventory Database. Functionally Obsolete does not communicate anything of a structural nature – it may be perfectly safe and structurally sound, but may be the source of traffic jams or may not have a high enough clearance to allow an oversized vehicle.
A year ago, Connecticut has 378 structurally deficient bridges and 1,079 considered functionally obsolete. Two years ago, 413 bridges were defined as structurally deficient and 1,059 were listed as functionally obsolete.
A January 2016 report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association compiled the most traveled U.S. Structurally Deficient Bridges, and identified the West River Bridge in New Haven, built in 1957, ranked as the 98th most travelled structurally deficient in the nation. At number 110 on the list was the Yankee Doodle Bridge in Fairfield, also constructed in 1957. At number 148 was the I-95 bridge over the Wepawaug River, south of Route 121 in New Haven, built in 1958.
Also ranking in the nation’s top 200 most travelled structurally deficient bridges were the I-95 bridge in Fairfield over Route 33 at Exit 17 (ranked number 159), the I-91 Bridge over North Front Street and Quinn River in New Haven just north of I-95 (number 160), and the I-95 bridge over Byram River in Fairfield (number 161). Those bridges were built in 1957, 1964 and 1958, respectively.