Ballpark Estimate Pegs Wisconsin Bridge Repairs at $1.4 Billion

There are 14,275 bridges in Wisconsin – 1,054, or 7.4 percent, are classified as being structurally deficient, which means that one of their key elements is in poor or worse condition. That’s up from 1,043 in 2014, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) 2019 Bridge Profile.

Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation has identified 1,955 bridges in need of repair at an estimated cost of $1.4 billion, according to ARTBA’s report. That’s down from 1,984 in 2014.

“Wisconsin has an ongoing, rigorous inspection and maintenance program designed to spot issues well before they turn into major public safety concerns. The net change of 11 bridges in this category means there are additional structures in the inventory that now receive closer attention – beyond the standard inspection schedule – to help prioritize any immediate needs and long-term solutions.

“Falling into this category does not mean unsafe or ‘undriveable.’ The department maintains current structural evaluations to ensure all bridges can safely accommodate the traveling public,” Kristin McHugh, director of public affairs for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT), said.

McHugh cautioned against inferring too much from the $1.4 billion estimate for bridge repairs, which Wisconsin DOT provides to the Federal Highway Administration as part of the National Bridge Inventory program. She explained that the estimate is a result of using “a prescribed replacement formula designed to give a ballpark idea of the financial impact of replacement.

“While the replacement calculations are accurate in that context, they would be considered hypothetical for planning and programming purposes,” McHugh said. “This is because the department would typically explore a host of much less costly rehabilitation and repair options, where viable, to extend the useful life of infrastructure and enhance the return on taxpayer investment.”