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Study: 47,000 U.S. bridges in poor condition, pace of repair slows to crawl

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Study: 47,000 u.s. bridges in poor condition, pace of repair slows to crawl
Iowa had the largest number of structurally deficient bridges with 4,675. Pennsylvania was second with 3,770. (Courtesy: IOWA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION)

WASHINGTON — The length of America’s structurally deficient bridges if placed end-to-end would span nearly 1,100 miles, the distance between Chicago and Houston, a new examination of federal government data shows.  And it’s a problem that hits close to home.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) analysis of the recently-released U.S. Department of Transportation 2018 National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database reveals 47,052 bridges are classified as structurally deficient and in poor condition.

Cars, trucks and school buses cross these compromised structures 178 million times every day, the data show. Nearly 1,775 are on the Interstate Highway System.

The most traveled structurally deficient bridges are on parts of Route 101, Interstate 405 and Interstate 5 in California, where daily crossings are as high as 289,000 per day.

Although the number of structurally deficient bridges is down slightly compared to 2017, the pace of improvement has slowed to the lowest point since ARTBA began compiling this report five years ago.

“Sadly, this report is no April Fool’s joke. At the current pace, it would take more than 80 years to replace or repair the nation’s structurally deficient bridges. That’s longer than the average life expectancy of a person living in the U.S.,” says Dr. Alison Premo Black, the ARTBA chief economist who conducted the analysis. “America’s bridge network is outdated, underfunded and in urgent need of modernization. State and local government just haven’t been given the necessary resources to get the job done.”

The report comes in the backdrop of ongoing discussions between Congress and the Trump administration about how to address the nation’s transportation infrastructure challenges.

“The best way to ‘bridge’ the infrastructure investment gap is for Congress and Trump administration to provide a permanent revenue solution for the federal Highway Trust Fund,” ARTBA President Dave Bauer says.

The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is the source, on average, of more than 50 percent of highway and bridge capital investments made annually by state transportation departments. The HTF is facing major financial difficulties. Absent congressional action, states could see a 40 percent cut in federal investment beginning in 2021.

“Since the 2016 election, leaders on both sides of the aisle have regularly cited upgrading America’s infrastructure as an area for common ground,” Bauer said. “This report makes clear that it’s about time Congress and the Trump administration stop talking and start solving this national problem.”

Including structurally deficient bridges, there are nearly 235,000 bridges — or about 38 percent — in need of some sort of structural repair, rehabilitation or replacement, according to ARTBA’s analysis of the NBI data. The association estimates the cost to make the identified repairs is nearly $171 billion.

Black notes the Federal Highway Administration changed the definition of “structurally deficient” in January 2018 as part of a final rule on highway and bridge performance measures required by the 2012 MAP-21 federal surface transportation law.

Two measures FHWA previously used to classify bridges as structurally deficient are no longer used.  This includes bridges where the overall structural evaluation was rated in poor or worse condition, or where the adequacy of waterway openings was insufficient. The new definition limits the classification to bridges where one of the key structural elements—the deck, superstructure, substructure or culverts—are rated in poor or worse condition.

States with the largest number of structurally deficient bridges are Iowa (4,675 bridges); Pennsylvania (3,770); Oklahoma (2,540); Illinois (2,273); Missouri (2,116); North Carolina (1,871); California (1,812); New York (1,757); Louisiana (1,678); and Mississippi (1,603).

Those with the most structurally deficient bridges as a percent of their total bridge inventory are Rhode Island (23 percent); West Virginia (19.8 percent); Iowa (19.3 percent); South Dakota (16.7 percent); Pennsylvania (16.5 percent); Maine (13.1 percent); Louisiana (13 percent), Puerto Rico (11.7 percent), Oklahoma (10.9 percent) and North Dakota (10.7 percent).

State and Congressional district — specific information from the analysis — including rankings and the locations of the 250 most heavily travelled structurally deficient bridges in the nation and top 25 most heavily traveled in each state — is available at www.artbabridgereport.org.

Established in 1902 and with more than 8,000 public and private sector members, the Washington-based ARTBA advocates for strong investment in transportation infrastructure to meet the public and business community demand for safe and efficient travel.

 

 

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The Nation

Rhode Island DOT looks to hike trucks-only tolls amid court battle; public input sought

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Rhode island dot wanting to hike rates on trucks-only toll system while court battle continues; public comment sought
A truck passes through one of Rhode Island's six operating toll gantries. (courtesy: Providence Journal)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — As the Connecticut legislature prepares to vote this week on Gov. Ned Lamont’s controversial and long-debated “trucks only” toll proposal, a similar system in Rhode Island continues to operate while legal action to overturn the tolls is underway.

The original Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) proposal to charge tolls on trucks only included 14 locations, all bridges RIDOT deemed as structurally deficient. Tolls collected at each bridge would be used to repair and upgrade the specific location.

RIDOT is accepting public comment through March 1 on a plan to increase the toll on a newly installed gantry at the Oxford Street Bridge in Providence, a bridge crossing Interstate 95. The original toll for the bridge was set at $2.25 per trip; however, RIDOT is studying the cost-benefit ratio of doubling the rate to $4.50. RIDOT representatives requesting comment on the proposed increase claim the increase is really no increase at all; it is simply an effort to maintain the revenue forecast from the 14 gantries included in the original tolling proposal.

Currently, Rhode Island has constructed toll gantries at six of the originally planned locations; however, as the program has moved forward, two locations have been temporarily or permanently delayed. Rather than adjusting anticipated total revenue based on 12 locations, Gov. Gina Raimondo has instead directed RIDOT officials to study and request rate hikes at specific bridges. The toll hikes will allow Rhode Island to collect the same $45 million forecast from the 14 original gantries. This new twist on a toll program already challenged as unconstitutional by the American Trucking Associations, and one which an appellate court has ruled Rhode Island must face in a lawsuit, is leading the trucking industry and toll opposition to question RIDOT’s language in press releases and discussions on the issue.

Chris Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association, said, “This should serve to reinforce concerns over the unbridled power and discretion given to RIDOT and further feeds the suspicion and skepticism of Rhode Island’s business owners about the end game of this scheme.”

Maxwell’s comments come on the heels of an already approved increased toll rate at another location in Providence. The Route 6 bridge over the Woonasquatucket River was increased from $2.00 to $5.00 last fall.

Maxwell also expressed concern about changing the still new tolls program when original approval was based on environmental impact studies. “From a legal standpoint,” he said, “these ‘on the fly’ changes would seem to undermine and violate the purpose and extent of the environmental impact assessments.”
Other opponents to the Oxford Street bridge toll increase note that the bridge does not fall into the criteria RIDOT deemed as structurally deficient, meaning revenue from the toll would be used at other locations, a provision not included in the tolling plan.

From RIDOT’s perspective, not only is the proposed toll rate increase not really an increase, it is also going to save the state money. RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said that the infrastructure costs of eliminating two planned toll locations will result in lower implementation costs.

“Our thinking is we’ll forgo building [a gantry] at the viaduct in Providence, or at least while the viaduct is being built,” Alviti said on WPRO radio. “We’ll assign the toll amount we were going to collect there to the next nearest location, which is Oxford Street.”

Chris Maxwell believes he has a full understanding of RIDOT’s intent. “[They] deliberately chose the most densely traveled tool location in the who scheme to further their insatiable appetite to soak businesses, consumers, and taxpayers,” he said in an interview with Transport Topics.

RIDOT is justifying its proposed action based on the original toll proposal’s expectation of generating $45 million in revenue. In any event, Peter Alviti says, truckers traveling I-95 through Rhode Island will still be paying $20.00 per trip.

When is an increase not an increase? It depends on what your definition of increase is. For those wanting to comment, emails can be sent to Dot.BridgeRepairTolls@dot.ri.gov or comments can be submitted in writing to Jay McGinn, P.E., Project Manager II RIDOT, 2 Capitol Hill, Providence RI 02903. Following cutoff date for comments on March 1, the new rate will be implemented on March 5.

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The Nation

Pink power: RTI lease-purchase operator spreads breast-cancer awareness

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Brittney Richardson poses with a group at a breast cancer awareness walk
Brittney Richardson, center wearing pink, poses with a group in front of her pink Volvo at a Kansas City breast-cancer walk. (Courtesy: Brittney Richardson)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When now 36-year-old Brittney Richardson said she wanted to go to CDL school, a lot of her friends told her they didn’t think she had it in her. Now, 8 years later she is traveling the country in a bright pink Volvo as a lease-purchase driver for Riverside Transport Inc.

Even without immediate support from friends and family, Richardson is never one to back down from a challenge. She said that if anything, discouraging comments only empowered her.

“Almost everyone told me I’d fail,” Richardson said. “So in January 2012 I set off to truck school and six weeks later I graduated top of my class and found myself quickly in a semi going across country.”

What most who doubted her didn’t know was that Richardson had developed an interest in driving trucks when she gained some experience while working with fire departments in both southwest Kansas and central Missouri.

“I was hooked,” she said. “I loved the challenge of learning to drive a big truck and loved even more the shock when people saw it was a woman driving.”

But how did she wind up with a truck that can be spotted miles away? Short answer: she simply walked into the RTI office and came out with an opportunity to serve as a company ambassador. RTI was looking for someone to lease-purchase the bright pink 2019 Volvo and help to raise breast-cancer awareness while also inspiring women to join the industry. She sent in a video competing for the position, and she was selected.

Although the truck’s exterior design is a bit uncommon on the roads, the 2019 Volvo is still driven coast-to-coast as a work truck for RTI. Other than documenting her journey on her YouTube channel and serving as an ambassador, Richardson said she is a normal lease-purchase operator.

Driving the pink Volvo, however, does get Richardson plenty of attention, and she has encountered several fans who have drawn a personal connection to the truck’s message. Although there are more than she can count, she shared a few notable interactions with The Trucker.

“I had an older gentleman come up to my window in Ohio in tears,” Richardson said. “He shared a heart-felt story about losing his wife to cancer and thanked me so much for driving for awareness. I see people waving with enthusiasm in passing cars, people giving thumbs up and running up to get photos with the truck.”

Richardson has found that the truck also accomplishes the mission of showing young girls that women do in fact drive 18-wheelers as she travels across the country.

“One day I passed a school bus in northern Ohio and there was a row of girls on the right side of the bus as it passed me,” she said. “The girls got so excited about seeing a pink truck. This one girl who was maybe in the sixth grade smiled so big, whipped her head around to tell her friends to look at the pink truck. I am so blessed to have these moments on dash cam over the last year. I couldn’t help but wonder if that moment inspired another little girl to do something she didn’t think she could do one day.”

Chelsee Patton, Director of Recruiting at RTI said that Richardson is a great example of a company ambassador, and she and Toya Cosby, who drives a 2020 pink Freightliner, help to promote women in the industry and raise breast-cancer awareness in a unique way.

“Brittney is a great driver at RTI, and we are incredibly lucky to have her on our team and have her showcase her trucking journey in her pink truck,” Patton said.

Richardson said her main role as an ambassador is to inspire and support women (and men) in the trucking industry as well as represent RTI as a company that stands with women in the industry and give them all the support needed to succeed.

Although Richardson doesn’t have a personal connection to breast cancer, she does have an interest in inspiring others, which is evident through her Brittney Richardson YouTube channel. She also hosts American Trucker on YouTube, which is maintained separately and geared toward anyone in the trucking industry.

“One night I decided to bring the camera along and film my night at work in the truck,” Richardson said. “It was an instant hit and the amount of people who responded back that I had made there day was unreal. That’s when I really realized I could inspire a lot of people by simply sharing my life on film.”

Richardson also documents her journey in the pink Volvo on her Facebook page, Brittney in Pink.

Richardson said she gets feedback from both male and female drivers who tell her she is an inspiration to them. She sees photos of new trucks and driving certificates, which she said keeps her going and continues her passion to inspire others both inside and outside of the trucking industry.

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The Nation

Moving America forward: Joe Pryor is spreading kindness through trucking

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Joe Pryor of Pennsylvania
Joe Pryor, Pennsylvania (Courtesy: Trucking Moves America Forward)

To celebrate the modern-day achievements of African Americans in the trucking industry, Trucking Moves America Forward (TMAF) has selected four drivers who exemplify excellence in trucking. They were selected because of their professionalism and dedication to their jobs, commitment to safety and continuous efforts to move America forward every day.

The drivers are being featured on TMAF’s blog and social media pages throughout the month of February as well as on The Trucker.com. The stories highlight the drivers’ accomplishments and safety records and share the personal story of each driver. This is the third of four features in the series.

Moving America forward: Joe Pryor is spreading kindness through trucking

Joe Pryor has been a professional truck driver for 19 years. Originally from Pittsburg, also known as the “Steel City,” Pryor’s early career was as a fireman. As a firefighter, Pryor learned to drive trucks.

After retiring as a firefighter, Pryor joined the trucking industry and has been driving for Jet Express, Inc. since he moved to Dayton, Ohio in 2001.

Pryor is passionate about his job and enjoys working for Jet Express. During an interview with TMAF, Pryor said the trucking industry is an exciting one and one that has been good to him. Pryor describes his job as a truck driver as fun. When asked what he loves most about trucking, Pryor said one of the reasons is that you get to meet a lot of different people, such as customers, while driving a truck. Drivers also get to see different parts of a city or state.

While on the road, Pryor is safety oriented, and strives to be one of the most courteous drivers on the nation’s highways. Pryor told TMAF that patience is critical to the job. Pryor is always willing to lend a helping hand to those who need it and goes above and beyond to help other drivers in the industry. Pryor said, “If I can help someone, I’m going to.”

At Jet Express, Pryor works with new hires as a trainer and handles their road tests. When giving advice to new drivers, Pryor highlights the importance of patience and kindness while on the road and on the job. Pryor also tells drivers to prioritize safety: that includes always scanning the road, paying attention and remaining alert. During inclement weather, such as rain or snow, Pryor tells drivers to take their time and be careful. New hires know if they have any questions, they can always call him.

When describing the industry, Pryor said, “Trucking is what keeps this world going…truck drivers deliver everything you rely on.” Pryor also discussed the great job opportunities available within the industry. “There’s a lot of demand for drivers,” he added. “Freight keeps coming and coming.”

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