Now updated for 2015, the National Bridge Inventory database can help you assess the soundness of bridges in your area. Journalists can use the data to investigate bridges by identifying those with structural problems, or that haven’t been recently inspected. Other key fields include average daily traffic and overall sufficiency rating. The records represent information from the most recent inspection for each bridge (which could be several years ago or the current year).
NICAR gets this data from the Federal Highway Administration website and converts some fields to make them easier to use, including converting latitude and longitude to decimal degrees. Previous years of data also are provided in a standard text format, and we include an importing guide for various database managers.
We provide bridge data going back to 2004; you can contact us for previous years going back to 1994.
- There are 611,845 highway bridges in the database (as classified by the FHWA)
- Bridges in the data range from about seven-feet long to 126,000-feet long
- Over 3,000 new highway bridges were built in 2014 & 2015 (according to the data)
- Approximately 10 percent of all highway bridges are labeled “structurally deficient”
How to use this data:
- Span wasn’t built to take critical hit: The Skagit River Bridge wasn’t particularly worrisome to state engineers, but bridges of its generation often were designed in such a way that a failure in a key location could ruin an entire span.
- Map: ‘Structurally deficient’ bridges in Washington state
Many US bridges old, risky and rundown (Associated Press): An AP analysis of 607,380 bridges in the most recent federal National Bridge Inventory showed that 65,605 were classified as “structurally deficient” and 20,808 as “fracture critical.” Of those, 7,795 were both – a combination of red flags that experts say indicate significant disrepair and similar risk of collapse.
Following the Money: Rural bridges targeted (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel): The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that a vast majority of the Wisconsin bridges awarded $15.8 million of construction money in the first wave of federal stimulus funding carry fewer than 1,000 vehicles a day. A dozen of those get less than 100 cars a day. For the story, Poston mined National Bridge Inventory data available at the NICAR database library.
Coverage of collapsed bridges and dam failures: Matt Jacob, The Dallas Morning News, and Alex Richards, Chicago Tribune, discussed the National Bridge Inventory database during the 2014 CAR Conference. Read a summary of their talk or download the audio (IRE members only).