It doesn’t take much of an imagination to picture the traffic nightmare that will follow today’s lane closures on the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, DC. The 83-year old bridge sees over 60,000 daily crossings of cars and trucks (and let’s not forget limos) between Washington, DC and Virginia.
The six-month scheduled closure is the result of inspectors recently finding serious corrosion during a routine inspection and not meeting load-bearing standards.
According to a 2013 study published by Transportation for America (T4America), 1 in 9 bridges in the United States are structurally deficient; meaning that they require “significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement.” The Memorial Bridge was one such bridge mentioned in that study two years ago.
Now, as lawmakers and working families alike rearrange their commuting lives to accommodate this bottleneck in DC traffic, the solutions for this and future bridge problems don’t come easy – or inexpensively. In that same study, T4America reports that, according to the Federal Highway Administration, “transportation agencies would need $70.9 billion to overcome the current backlog of deficient bridges.”
Time is not on our side. The longer we wait to repair these bridges, the higher the bill. The main reason being is that a bridge has a 50 year life-span on average, and the number of bridges older than 50 years is growing exponentially.
When Congress does decide to take measures to fix our infrastructure, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) is one of the key sectors of the construction workforce to get the job done. Over the last few years, the IUPAT Finishing Trades Institute has been certifying workers to apply coatings on the metal in our bridges and other structures to protect them from corrosion.
IUPAT coating application specialists are growing in numbers every month to get the job done on the nation’s bridges. Now – we just need action by Congress. Maybe the gridlocked traffic surrounding a gridlocked Congress will finally spur some action.