(WMC-TV) - An Action News 5 investigation found more than 200 Mid-South bridges are deemed structurally deficient. Some of those bridges are the most heavily traveled in the area.
Mid-South truck driver Ronnie Bowen thinks about it every time he is behind the wheel. Bowen fears a deadly bridge collapse like the one in Minnesota could become reality on his own path.
"If you look at just our biggest metro areas, there are more structurally deficient bridges than there are McDonald's restaurants," said David Goldberg with Transportation for America. "And Memphis is not going to be much different."
A new report by Transportation for America found more than 66,000 U.S. bridges structurally deficient with 899 in Arkansas, 2,400 in Mississippi, and almost 1,200 in Tennessee.
Bridges are scored one to 10 on three components. If any component scores a four or below then it is considered structurally deficient. Structurally deficient bridges in Memphis:
- Every day more than 40,000 people travel over a bridge on Sam Cooper that crosses over Highland Street. It made the list because the substructure that connects the bridge to the ground.
- This bridge over I-240 just south of South Parkway is on the deficient list. More than 100,000 cars cross it daily.
- Nearly 100,000 cars pass through the I-40 and 240 East exchange each day. The support systems are what raised red flags.
- The bridge on Brooks Road received the lowest safety rating in Shelby County.
Tennessee Department of Transportation's Stan Reynolds manages the West Tennessee Bridge Program.
"We are seeing some signs of superstructure aging, concrete deteriorating," he said.
His crews inspect more than 6,000 bridges every two years.
"I wanted to ensure the public we're looking at these structures on a regular basis. We're over them. We're under them," said Reynolds.
Bridges can be rated structurally deficient for reasons that do not pose an immediate threat to the public. But allowing them to remain in serious need of repair can lead to a sudden closure or, far worse, a collapse.
"Traditionally we've kept them in very good shape, and we continue to need good funding to do that in the future," said Reynolds.
This group says aging bridges are not being repaired as quickly as they should be fixed. Congress recently eliminated dedicated bridge repair funds and gas tax revenues earmarked to pay for repairs have decreased.
"We're driving less than we used to on a per person basis, and our vehicles are getting to be more efficient. So what we're seeing is a declining revenue source," said Goldberg.
Bowen says he is aware of the financial situation, but safety needs to come home.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates repairing deficient bridges would cost a staggering $76 billion nationwide.
Transportation for America found 69 structurally deficient bridges in Shelby County with 58 in Fayette County, 33 in Dyer County, and 26 in Tipton County.
And while Mississippi has some of the most structurally deficient bridges in the country, Tunica and DeSoto Counties have the least number of bad bridges.
You can check bridges in your neighborhood by clicking on an interactive map through the link here.