In Connecticut, there are more than 3,400 bridges and culverts on municipally maintained roads, according to the state Department of Transportation. Construction and maintenance is the responsibility of the cities and towns who own them. Currently, 1,765 are listed on the state’s eligible bridge list – a program that provides for State grants to municipalities for the removal, replacement, reconstruction or rehabilitation of local bridges.
Applications for fiscal year 2020 State grants under the state’s Local Bridge Program were accepted through May 31, 2019. Under the program, a municipality may qualify for a grant of 50% to cover eligible project costs. The Department of Transportation has yet to release a list of municipalities seeking the funding, and is not commenting on when such a list would be made public.
The state DOT website recently noted that “Applications for FY 2020 State grants under the STATE Local Bridge Program are currently being accepted and a deadline will be announced soon.” The site promises that “Further announcements, including funding allocated by the legislature for FY 2020, will be posted here.” As of mid-July, no details have been posted, and the Department has not responded to requests for comment.
“Recognizing the difficulty” that municipalities have in meeting their responsibility to maintain local bridges, the General Assembly created the Local Bridge Program in 1984 as part of the State’s Infrastructure Renewal Program, the DOT website explains. Federal funding has been made available for municipal bridge projects whenever possible, and is still available for “a limited number” of projects. New bridges in a location that did not previously have a bridge or other type of crossing are not eligible.
According to the latest update of the state’s Local Bridge Program Manual, revised earlier this year, subject to the availability of State Funds (sale of State bonds or other funds) municipalities now have two funding/administration options: The municipality can request that the Department administer the design of the project at no cost to the municipality or the municipality can administer the design of the project and pay the traditional 20% share.
Eligibility for State Local Bridge Program is available for bridges that are not yet structurally deficient, such as functionally obsolete bridges, movable bridges with mechanical/electrical elements rated poor, and bridges that could benefit from preservation work, the Manual explains.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Bridge Safety and Evaluation Section inspects all state bridges, and all municipally owned bridges with spans greater than 20 feet, on a regular basis (every 2 years or less). In general, bridges are considered to be “structurally deficient” if the physical condition rating of any of the major structural components (deck, superstructure and substructure) are rated as "poor" or below, according to the 128-page DOT manual.
Bridges that have received funding under the Local Bridge Program within the last 10 years are not included on the eligible bridge list, even though they may again be deficient. Currently, 688 bridges or culverts located in the state’s municipalities are considered to be functionally obsolete and 205 are categorized as structurally deficient.
On the state’s current eligibility list (updated in February 2019) are 15 bridges inspected this year and 438 last year. The list also includes 817 with inspection reports dating back to the 1990’s. Sufficiency rates range from less than 30% at locations in Hamden, Bethlehem and Lyme, inspected within the past three years, to 17 inspected this year or last with a sufficiency rating of 99%.
According to DOT data, applications to the program from fiscal year 2008 that have been funded - totaling $8 million in federal funds - include projects in Beacon Falls, Bethany, Chester, Colebrook, Glastonbury, Greenwich, Killingly, Ledyard, Litchfield, Manchester, Montville, new Haven, Sherman, South Windsor, Southington, Vernon, Waterbury and Woodbridge.
The website notes that “Federal funding has been made available for municipal bridge projects whenever possible, and is still available for a limited number of new projects.”