Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on March 15, 2021 
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on May 5, 2021
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 16, 2021


For the continued safety of America's traveling public, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) advocates that a bridge safety program for both public and private bridges be fully funded and consistently operated to rehabilitate or replace structurally deficient bridges, reduce the maintenance backlog, and plan for the large number of bridges that are approaching or exceeding their design life or, are deemed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) per their National Bridge Inventory (NBI) as “Poor”.  This program should preserve full functionality of all bridges to support the safe, reliable, and efficient operation of existing transportation systems, and to allow these systems to be utilized to their full capacity. Such programs as a minimum should include: 

Regular inspection and evaluation programs that incorporate state-of-the-art investigative and analytical techniques, especially of older bridges which were not designed and constructed to current design, loading, and geometric standards. 
Posting of weight and speed limits on bridges with load restrictions. 
Implementing and adequately funding regular, system-wide maintenance programs that are cost-effective means of ensuring the safety and structural adequacy of existing bridges. 
Utilizing a comprehensive program for prioritizing and adequately funding the replacement of functionally obsolete and structurally deficient federal, state. and local bridges.


Bridges identified as “Poor” may either be closed, or weight restricted due to deteriorating structural components. While not necessarily unsafe, these bridges must have limits imposed for speed and weight. Further, outdated bridges may have inadequate bridge widths, load carrying capacities, waterway openings and other design features that result in insufferable traffic disruptions.  These restrictions not only contribute to traffic congestion, but also affect safe and efficient personal mobility and movement of goods and services. The restrictions may also result in such major inconveniences as school buses taking lengthy detours and increased response times for emergency vehicles required to use alternate routes. Additionally, such deficiencies may adversely affect the performance of transportation systems during or in response to emergencies or disasters. 

Continued neglect will ultimately result in higher annual life-cycle costs of bridges due to shortened service life. Therefore, investments in maintenance and repair to improve the condition and functionality of the nation's bridges will reduce required investment in the future. Currently, 42% of all bridges are at least 50 years old, a typical design life, signifying a surge in rehabilitation and replacement costs in the near future.  

While funding made available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 and preceding transportation funding bills, made progress in improving the condition and performance of the transportation infrastructure, there remains a shortfall in long-term investment in bridge safety. As of 2020, 46,154 of the nation's 617,084 bridges, or 7.5%, were structurally deficient, as compared to 9.1% of all bridges in 2017. Despite this improvement, progress has slowed in recent years and structurally deficient or outdated bridges on the nation's transportation systems continue to pose significant potential hazards which may jeopardize safe, reliable, and efficient operation. 

The most recent estimate puts the rehabilitation project backlog for the nation’s bridges at $125 billion (2020 dollars). Total bridge expenditure by all levels of government for capital outlays (including system preservation and system expansion) was at $14.4 $12.8 billion in 2020. Additional funding beyond that level will therefore be needed to continue to reduce the backlog of structurally deficient bridges and prevent more bridges from becoming structurally deficient. 


The safety, functionality, and structural adequacy of bridges are key components necessary to support and ensure the safe, reliable, and efficient operation of transportation infrastructure and systems which provide mobility of people and movement of goods and services. This policy establishes the minimum bridge safety program components necessary for both public and private bridges to ensure an adequate and economical program for the inspection, evaluation, maintenance, rehabilitation, and replacement of our nation's bridges. 

ASCE Policy Statement 208  
First Approved in 1977