CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 12/16/2011

Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program – Request for Comment

Current federal regulations (23 CFR 650.405(b)(1)), under the Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program, more or less require, unless granted permission otherwise, local agencies to replace deficient single-lane bridges with two-lane bridges. Counties can apply to replace a deficient single-lane bridge with a new single-lane bridge but it has been the experience of some that the process is time-consuming and gives discretion to the state or federal government rather than the local agency that knows best a community’s needs. 

CSAC is interested in hearing from counties whether this has been an issue when replacing or trying to replace structurally deficient single-lane bridges in their communities. For more information, the following is the experience of one California County. 

“For example, we recently completed a bridge replacement project in a rural community with a total construction cost of $1,767,900, of which 88.53 percent is eligible for federal reimbursement from the Highway Bridge Program. This new bridge serves as a vital link for three families who would be isolated in the event of a bridge failure. Despite very low traffic and the fact that no additional development is planned in the area, the County’s request to build a one-lane bridge was denied, and a two-lane bridge was required. The County’s staff estimate that this requirement increased costs by 30-40 percent.”

The concern is that with limited funding to address deficient bridges, the regulations require communities to replace single-lane bridges with two-lane bridges at a significantly higher cost and is sometimes unnecessary given the community circumstances related to traffic volumes and anticipated growth. This issue is particularly timely in that proposals for federal surface transportation authorization coming out of Congress would eliminate the Highway Bridge Program has a separate program and would fold it into a new “core” program whereby bridge projects would have to compete with other important highway infrastructure projects. Furthermore, the action to consolidate the Highway Bridge Program into a core program would eliminate the requirement that states spend 15 percent of their annual apportioned bridge funding on “off-system” bridges.

Please contact Kiana Buss, CSAC Senior Legislative Analyst, at kbuss@counties.org if you have had a similar experience or have any general comments on the issue.

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