On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a discussion about the inspection and maintenance of aging bridges in the wake of a report of a man falling through a pedestrian bridge over a freeway in Detroit.
Matt Chynoweth, chief bridge engineer for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), joins the podcast to explain the federal guidelines for the inspection and rating of all bridges on the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) and how his team works with other road agencies and contractors to ensure bridges are safe.
The MDOT website includes an interactive feature that shows the location of bridges across the state along with information about age, condition and the date of the last inspection. A newly added page provides inspection data on more than 70 Detroit-area pedestrian bridges over state trunkline routes.
Chynoweth underscores, again, that if any bridge, whether it carries vehicles or pedestrians, is found to be a danger, it will be closed.
In the wake of a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh earlier this year, reporting focused on national bridge conditions. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), one in three U.S. bridges either needs repairs or to be replaced.
Chynoweth echoes what many others have said: The lack of bridge funding is part of a broader problem with underinvestment in our transportation system. Michigan's per-capita transportation spending has lagged behind other Midwest states for decades. This has compounded the challenge of upgrading our bridge conditions. How big is the challenge? MDOT estimates it would require $2 billion just to get all state-owned bridges up to good or fair condition, and another $1.5 billion for local agency owned bridges.
Podcast photo of a pedestrian bridge in Detroit.