With our bridges, it’s a safety crisis. Every day that goes by without someone getting hurt – or worse – by falling chunks of bridge is a minor miracle. Every week that passes without a bridge collapsing is a blessing.
Here are the grim statistics. Out of Michigan’s 10,928 bridges, 1,437 of them are judged to be structurally deficient. You see them everywhere you drive.
When you drive under a bridge and see plywood, it’s there to keep chunks of concrete from dropping onto your car.
Michigan has had enough money to apply band-aids to the problem. But now there are so many bridges in such poor –and dangerous – condition, we can barely afford the band-aids, let alone the real repairs that are required.
We have a revenue problem
Michigan adds a 19-cent per gallon tax to what we pay at the pump. But as we drive more fuel-efficient cars, we buy fewer gallons, and less gas tax revenue comes in to the highway trust fund. But the cost of repairing roads and bridges isn’t going down – like everything else, it’s going up.
We have a safety problem
If the only problem is that our bridges were bumpy, that wouldn’t be a crisis. But it is a crisis when chunks of bridge are falling on passing cars below. And it’s certainly a crisis when entire bridges are on the verge of falling down.
No one likes to have their taxes go up. But absolutely nobody wants their bridges to fall down. So we have to bite the bullet and come up with more revenue for our roads and bridges – before it’s too late.
Anywhere you drive, you’ll come across a bridge that desperately needs work. It’s a problem everywhere. These are bridges in the worst condition, with the most urgent need for repair – and with the greatest risk of disaster. Sometimes people throw around the word too casually, but the condition of Michigan’s bridges is truly a crisis.