Billion-dollar investments propel bridge repair, replacement projects


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Mary Scott Nabers is CEO of research and consulting firm Strategic Partnerships Inc. and the author of “Inside the Infrastructure Revolution – A Roadmap for Rebuilding America.” Opinions are the author’s own.

Approximately $14.4 billion is spent yearly to repair, rehabilitate or replace bridges in the U.S., according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. However, that yearly amount has increased and will continue to increase because the backlog of critically needed bridge repairs is estimated to be $125 billion. 

Many of the bridges in America were constructed during the bridge-building boom of the 1950s that correlated with the country’s expansion of suburbanization and development of the Interstate Highway System. Unfortunately, those bridges are now reaching the end of their service life.

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With about 50,000 U.S. bridges with very significant issues awaiting attention, an estimated 40% of them can be rehabilitated, but at least 35% will require a complete replacement. Bridge projects will represent a large portion of all infrastructure improvements over the next decade. Contractors of all types will be needed to meet the anticipated high demand.

Here are some examples of the types of these projects currently underway:

Cape Coral Bridge, Florida

Officials in Lee County, Florida, are developing plans to replace the Cape Coral Bridge, which crosses over the Caloosahatchee River. The board of commissioners has decided to proceed with the several phases outlined in a project plan. 

One component includes the construction of two new parallel bridges, each with three lanes. A new U-turn under the two new bridges will be developed, along with a pedestrian bridge over the roadway. The projected cost for this effort is $301 million.

Another element of the project will alter the roadway leading over the existing bridge. Cape Coral Parkway will be expanded to six lanes adjacent to the river and widened. A dividing barrier will be installed between traffic traveling in different directions, and two intersections near the bridge will be improved.

Woolsey Finnell Bridge, Alabama

The Alabama DOT has announced plans to replace the 60-year-old Woolsey Finnell Bridge in the city of Tuscaloosa. The bridge carries more than 50,000 motorists daily and must be widened to accommodate the continual traffic growth. 

The new bridge project, estimated at a cost of $125 million, will require almost 2 miles of construction across the Black Warrior River to provide eight vehicle traffic lanes. Bicycle and pedestrian lanes, a pedestrian walkway to the bridge and land work will be included.  

Current plans call for construction to be done in three phases. Phase 1 will clear the construction zone and add pavement and additional support piers. Phase 2 will relocate traffic, remove the current bridge and pave a new middle span. Phase 3 will stripe the new road and realign traffic. The project is currently in the planning phase, and officials hope to begin construction in 2025.

Burlington-Winooski Bridge, Vermont

The cities of Burlington and Winooski in Vermont will partner to replace a 96-year-old bridge that connects the two downtowns. The current bridge serves an estimated 25,000 vehicles and 300 cyclists and pedestrians daily and is nearing the end of its service life. 

The replacement bridge will provide four 11-foot-wide lanes and two 12-foot-wide shared-use paths for pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users separated by a traffic barrier. The bridge project will cost between $60 million and $80 million and federal funding has been allocated. 

The project is currently pursuing environmental commitments and right-of-way processes. It will be delivered through a design-build contract.



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