COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio is second in the country for its high number of bridges, and a growing number of them are in need of repair. But how to pay for it is something lawmakers have yet to figure out. Options range from new legislation to raising the gas tax, to fixing funding for the Highway Trust Fund.
Ohio is also marking the 50th anniversary of a tragedy along the Ohio River that sparked a national call to action. On December 15th, 1967 the Silver Bridge Collapsed, sending dozens of cars into the waters below. 46 people lost their lives.
The resulting investigation would reveal the bridge failed after ongoing use and years of neglect, “The bridge had not been inspected in approximately 16 years,” said Jim Pajk with the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The disaster would be the catalyst for the formation of the National Bridge Inspection Standards, “Every Bridge in the US has to be inspected every two years,” Pajk said.
Those inspections recently showed almost 2000 Ohio bridges are structurally deficient. Meaning on a scale of 0-9 they scored a 5 or below. While still safe and drivable, they require repair and soon, “Approximately 40% of the bridges in Ohio are 50 years old,” Pajk said.
The US Department of Transpiration estimates the price tag of repairing Ohio bridges at 30 billion dollars. Pajk is calling on lawmakers to find that funding, before it’s too late, “Bridges are growing older, just like we are growing older every year,” Pajk said.
Recently Ohio Representative Steve Stivers (R- Upper Arlington) was one of many lawmakers who called on Capitol Hill to shore up funds using the Highway Trust Fund amidst tax reform, but were unsuccessful, “We certainly have crumbling roads and bridges that I want to invest in,” Stivers said.
In addition US Senator Sherrod Brown recently introduced a 75 billion dollar Bridge Investment Act, which he calls a bipartisan effert to revamp the country’s infrastructure, a recent top concern for the president. Browns measure includes the provision that all repairs and construction must also include American made steel and iron.
Some have called on raising the federal gas tax which right now is at 18.4% and has not been raised since 1993. Ohio’s gas tax sits at 28 cents a gallon and has not been raised in more than a decade.