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The Structural Deficiency of New York Bridges


HOST INTRO: We often hear commuters complaining about the Subway. But New Yorkers depend on many different kinds of transportation. Buses, bikes, tunnels… bridges. Millions of drivers cross bridges in New York State every day. As Lauren Lantry finds, like the MTA, New York’s bridges have a lot of problems.

LANTRY 1: The two stone towers at either end of the Brooklyn Bridge are massive. The bridge is over a mile long. And it’s hung with hundreds of thick, metal cables. But even though it appears strong, the bridge has some problems.

CARLILE 1: [1:53] So we’re standing on some wooden planks that almost remind me of a very bad peer in Los Angeles where it’s been kind of eroded by weather.

LANTRY 2: Melanie Carlile is an ex-pat living in Berlin, and she’s here to see a tourist sites like the Brooklyn Bridge. As cars drive underneath, the planks she’s standing on shake a little.

CARLILE 2: [3:16] I’m taken back to my days in California where it feels like a small earthquake every five or six seconds and that’s a little unnerving quite honestly.

LANTRY 3: Ask a structural engineer, and they’ll tell you extreme shakiness, reminiscent of earthquake tremors, is a symptom of age. And the Brooklyn Bridge was built back in 1869. Another common effect of age? Structural deficiency. That’s the most recent rating the Bridge received from the U.S. Department of Transportation. That doesn’t mean the Bridge is going to collapse tomorrow. But it does mean there might be serious issues, like cracking in the superstructure. And that could lead to eventual collapse. New York state has more than 17,000 bridges. Andrew Hermann is past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He says bridges get graded in a way we’re all familiar with.

HERMANN 1: [22:43] The New York State report card rated the bridges as a D plus and a nation-wide we have about a c plus.

LANTRY 4: A ‘D’ plus means New York is barely passing. Every two years, all bridges in the U.S. are inspected and ranked. Nine is the best, and zero means, you should get off that bridge now. Get a four or less, and it’s structurally deficient. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of more than 47,000 across the U.S. that are structurally deficient. And Hermann says that means big consequences.

HERMANN 2: I mean, we waste hours sitting in traffic // we see the consequences of failing infrastructure, they play out every day

LANTRY 5: Hermann says structurally deficient bridges cause traffic. That’s because you can’t just entirely shut down a crossing as busy as the Brooklyn Bridge to upgrade roads and make repairs. So, cities are forced to block off individual lanes. Which causes that traffic, and creates a bad cycle. Idling cars release emissions, and emissions erode bridges. And it gets worse. Hermann says we can put a price on the gas we use during traffic and the lost time we spend while stuck.

HERMANN 3:  you’re talking about $700 per driver in New York City. That’s what it costs each year to a driver due to the congestion we have already. // We’re talking about New York City area drivers wasting 53 hours per year just sitting in traffic.

LANTRY 6: Repairing bridges is not only time consuming, it’s also expensive.

GHOSN 1: [19:35] The deck, here, $300 million, just to replace the deck. So it’s a lot of money.

LANTRY 7: Michel Ghosn [MI-SHELL GO-SIN] teaches bridge engineering at The City College of New York. Ghosn says building a new bridge is often cheaper than paying for ongoing repairs.  But building a new bridge in New York City could cost taxpayers over $3 billion dollars. That’s billion with a b. And he says there’s another problem. Politicians hold the purse strings, but no politician wants to be the one to raise taxes. Especially if a bridge won’t be built within his or her term limits.

GHOSN 2: So there is this tendency to postpone and again, you have to have the foresight in order to put the effort // so that not to get to a point where we have major disasters and then everybody’s up in arms.

LANTRY 9: Repairs of the Brooklyn Bridge are ongoing. It’s due to be graded again this year. As for the country’s bridges, in 2018, the Trump Administration offered $200 billion in federal funds, but that has to cover ALL infrastructure projects. And civil engineer Andy Hermann says that’s not enough. It’ll take $171 billion to repair the country’s bridges. Lauren Lantry, Columbia Radio News.


  1. When is the brooklyn bridge supposed to be graded next?

  2. Suspect it’s graded mroe frequently. At least every one year. Ongoing repairs.

  3. How much would it cost to repair all of new York state’s bridges so that every bridge could be ranked as “good”?

  4. To rebuilt new bridge

  5. They would still have to maintiain the new bridge, studies woul dhave to take a look at. Someone would have to look at the budgets adn then compare it to what

  6. New York City DOT would be the group to do that

  7. Country: ARTBA (american road adn building association). Nearly 235,000 bridges need repair and replacement. Cost to estimate make  $171 Billion based on the average cost data. This is new data (2019)

  8. New York State:

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