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Nearly 56,000 bridges called structurally deficient

Nearly 56,000 bridges nationwide, which vehicles cross 185 million times a day, are structurally deficient, a bridge construction group announced Wednesday.

The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) list of 55,710 deficient bridges includes high-profile spans such as Throgs Neck in New York, Yankee Doodle in Connecticut and Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C.

The list is based on Transportation Department data. The department scores bridges on a nine-point scale, and while the deficient ones might not be imminently unsafe, they are classified in need of attention.

More than one in four bridges (173,919) are at least 50 years old and have never had major reconstruction work, according to the ARTBA analysis. State transportation officials have identified 13,000 bridges along interstates that need replacement, widening or major reconstruction, according to the group.

"America's highway network is woefully underperforming," said Alison Premo Black, the group's chief economics who conducted the analysis. "It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization."

The five states with the most deficient bridges are Iowa with 4,968, Pennsylvania with 4,506, Oklahoma with 3,460, Missouri with 3,195 and Nebraska with 2,361.

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The eight states where at least 15% of the bridges are deficient are: Rhode Island at 25%, Pennsylvania at 21%, Iowa and South Dakota at 20%, West Virginia at 17%, and Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma at 15%.

Finding a new funding stream for road and bridge construction is a priority for state and federal officials because the gas tax that primarily funds the highway trust fund hasn't kept pace with construction priorities as cars become more efficient.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said during her confirmation hearing that the highway trust fund is "a huge issue" because it spends $10 billion more each year than it collects.

President Trump has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure program for the next decade, but the source of funding remains uncertain.

"State and local transportation departments haven't been provided the resources to keep pace with the nation's bridge needs," Black said.