TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Nearly $245 million and more than 4,000 bridges in Florida—That’s the investment and impact of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law over the next five years in the Sunshine state. The federal government said the big funding push for bridges is only going to help about 15,000 structures across the nation, making Florida home to almost 30% of the program’s targeted bridges for repair.
As of 2021, Florida has 12,595 bridges across the state. A report from the Florida Department of Transportation said there were 279 built through the 1930s. Most of Florida’s bridges were built between the 1960s and 1970s, before bridge building slowed down. The state’s oldest bridges have had the most time to build up damage, making the funding crucial for sustainable infrastructure.
“The Biden-Harris Administration is thrilled to launch this program to fix thousands of bridges across the country – the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, $26.5 billion are being portioned out over five years to fix 15,000 bridges across the country. Florida will receive $244.9 million to fix 408 bridges that are reported to be in poor condition, and to preserve and improve more than 4,000 bridges that are in fair condition. The funding is also expected to pay improvements to protect infrastructure against damages caused by weather and climate change, focused on long-term resiliency.
With more than 4,400 bridges to be repaired in Florida, the federal money will pay for about a third of Florida’s bridges statewide to be fixed and weather-proofed. The law’s budget will be used to modernize bridges in every state. While the specific number of bridges has been stated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, they have not yet released a list with the names and locations of the bridges that will be receiving funding and repair through 2026.
“Each state’s DOTs prioritizes its bridge projects depending on needs, but the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes an incentive for states to direct these funds to off-system bridges owned by a county, city, town or other local agency,” according to FHWA. Federal officials said the Bridge Formula Program flows through each state’s Dept. of Transportation.
8 On Your Side reached out to FDOT to get a list of what FHWA calls “high priority projects,” and is awaiting a response.
That said, reports from FDOT may give us a clue about which bridges will be included in the program’s efforts. As part of the FHWA’s work in partnership with FDOT, Florida has a statewide inventory of bridges, separated into three categories for the bridges’ condition.
“This condition is divided into three groups called “Good”, “Fair”, and “Poor”. The conditions use the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) rating system,” according to FDOT documents. “The condition group, Good, is defined as bridges with an overall NBI condition rating of 7, 8, or 9. The condition group, Fair, is defined as bridges with an overall NBI condition rating of 5, or 6. The condition group, Poor, is defined as bridges with an overall NBI condition rating of 4 or less.”
FDOT reports that only 1.42% of Florida’s bridges are rated as “poor,” while 67.16% are rated as “good,” as of 2021. That means 31.42% are rated as “fair,” which is the category containing the bulk of the bridges that will be repaired, according to statements released by FHWA.
To figure out where these bridges are, we turn to FDOT’s district maps. The state is split into seven districts, plus the Florida Turnpike Enterprise.
Statewide, there were 465 bridges flagged as structurally deficient in 2021. In Tampa Bay, the counties covered are split between Districts 1 and 7. Collectively, those districts have 49 bridges that are deficient, split between Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lee, Manatee, Okeechobee, Polk and Sarasota counties in District 1, and Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties in District 7.
Of the bridges in the two districts, five bridges were closed due to maintenance concerns. Only 47 bridges in the whole state are currently closed. There are 93 bridges in Districts 1 and 7, which contain Tampa Bay counties, which have posted restrictions, with the bulk of them in District 1. FDOT also reported there were almost 2,000 bridges across the state that were deemed functionally obsolete. Of the 1,723 bridges, 502 are in the districts that contain Tampa Bay.
The state estimates replacing every bridge in the state could, built through the 2010s, could cost almost $18.2 billion. In the districts containing Tampa Bay, that cost is about $4.6 billion. The majority of that amount for the two districts is centered on District 7, in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. To replace the bridges in District 7, the state estimates the cost at $2.94 million.
For the first quarter of 2022, FDOT has already released a bridge quality report. It was published on Jan. 3, and 8 On Your Side is analyzing the information to see which bridges in Tampa Bay may end up on the list for repair and maintenance.
President Joe Biden is expected to address the newly announced bridge repair effort Friday. WFLA will carry the news conference and provide more information as it becomes available.