Region Forward Blog

Officials Highlight Metropolitan Washington's Highway and Bridge Maintenance Needs

Jul 24, 2014
Memorial Bridge


In July as part of its 2014 series the COG Board of Directors focused on infrastructure that is critical to metropolitan Washington’s mobility safety and prosperity—our highways and bridges. Experts and officials gave an overview of our expansive roadway network and its current condition as well as the funding needed to maintain it at a state of good repair. They stressed that a number of Interstate highways major and minor arterial highways and bridge structures in the region are reaching the end of their intended lifespan and will need major repair rehabilitation or full replacement in coming years.

According to COG Acting Co-Director of Transportation Planning Robert Griffiths the region has nearly 10000 lane-miles of highway mostly owned by the states. About a quarter of these highway lane miles have been rated “unacceptable” according to standard engineering definitions meaning that they will soon need repair.

Highway and Bridge Ownership in the D.C. Region

Highway and Bridge Ownership in the D.C. Region

These regional figures do not capture the condition of approximately 25000 additional lane-miles of local non-highway roads and streets in the region. Representatives from the Virginia Maryland and District of Columbia departments of transportation followed Griffiths’ presentation to provide details about the condition of those facilities.

Officials also highlighted the key role bridges play in the roadway network. Griffiths noted that the bridges that cross the Potomac and Anacostia rivers serve about 1.4 million vehicles a day. In addition to major crossings like the Wilson Bridge the region is home to more than 3300 bridges. Like highways bridges are primarily owned by the states. About 5% of these bridges — 176 in all — have been rated “structurally deficient” meaning that some portion of the bridge deck or the structures supporting it are experiencing advanced deterioration and are in need of significant repair. Nationally about 11% of bridges are considered to be structurally deficient.

The region is expected to spend $100 billion on highways and bridges over the next 25 years. Griffiths said the cost of repairs needed to keep them in a state of good repair over this time span could top $39 billion. Area elected officials and transportation agencies are counting on federal funding to cover nearly half that cost. Falls Church Vice Mayor David Snyder said “I think the case has been made for significant federal involvement. State and locals have been footing the bill for too long while the federal government has been frankly missing in action.” Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton said it is imperative that we fund and fix our bridges and roads sooner rather than later. Loudoun County Supervisor Matthew Letourneau pointed out how the roadway network ties together our multi-state region. He said “things that happen in D.C. also affect Virginia. The bridges in D.C. may be solely the responsibility of the District but they affect what happens in my state.” He raised the question to the state DOTs what can COG do to make this better from a funding and information sharing perspective?

Estimated 2015-2040 Highway & Bridge Expenditures in D.C. Region

Estimated 2015-2040 Highway & Bridge Expenditures in D.C. Region

Following the briefings the COG Board approved a letter to send to the region’s Congressional representatives urging immediate action to replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund from which nearly all federal aid for road and transit projects flows. In April federal officials warned that the fund would become insolvent as early as the end of July of this year and that payments to states for maintenance and construction projects already underway would be slowed or halted altogether.

In its letter the COG Board pointed out that approximately $2 billion in federal funding has already been programmed to be spent on hundreds of improvements in the region this year and that many of the projects address critical safety needs. “Insolvency will put agencies in the impossible position of deciding which projects to keep funding and which to halt” it warned.

About the 2014 Regional Infrastructure Series:
COG has planned a series on regional infrastructure focused on its main areas of expertise such as transportation water energy and public safety communications. Officials hope the series will identify policy advocacy and outreach actions around key infrastructure needs. COG’s officials believe that long-term commitment to capital investment and maintenance of our infrastructure is vital to achieving our Region Forward vision for a more prosperous accessible livable and sustainable metropolitan Washington.

Previous Infrastructure Series Blogs:
Water Infrastructure Investments Key to Region’s Water Quality Goals Health and Prosperity
O​fficials Launch Series with Discussion on Water Infrastructure (Drinking Water)

Media Clips from July 2014 Discussion:
WTOP: Memorial Bridge 175 others bridges ‘deficient’ with fixes in limbo


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