Thousands of North Texas Bridges Deemed Deficient: Report

A report from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration lists thousands of North Texas bridges as being inadequate as of 2012.

In the four most populous North Texas counties, 2,051 bridges were listed as either "functionally obsolete" or "structurally deficient" on the administration's inventory of over 50,000 Texas bridges.

"Structurally deficient does not mean unsafe," said Val Lopez with the Texas Department of Transportation.

Bridges can be deemed inadequate in one of two ways: "functionally obsolete" or "structurally deficient."

Functionally obsolete means that a particular span is being utilized at a capacity in excess of that for which it was designed.

"It could have shoulders that are too narrow, maybe it's not high enough compared to the modern specifications. What it doesn't mean, is that it is not unsafe." said Lopez.

Structurally deficient means that a span is experiencing problems with the structure of the bridge itself.

In the four most populous North Texas counties, 104 bridges were specifically designated as "structurally deficient" and in need of repair or maintenance.

  • In Dallas County, 1,064 bridges were deemed inadequate, with 23 being listed as structurally deficient.
  • In Tarrant County, 560 bridges were deemed inadequate, with 43 being listed as structurally deficient.
  • In Collin County, 263 bridges were deemed inadequate, with 2 listed as structurally deficient.
  • In Denton County, 164 bridges were deemed inadequate, with 15 listed as structurally deficient.

In addition, other North Texas counties were listed as having inadequate bridges.

Texas Department of Transportation officials said infrastructure issues highlighted by the report are being addressed. Though some of the most apparent "structurally deficient" bridges were in the Dallas Mixmaster, the TxDOT "horseshoe" project aims to replace the bridges.

"Some of the bridges that are on the horseshoe project were constructed in the 1930's and 1950's and so they're aging, they're probably at their capacity," said Katrina Keyes with the horseshoe project.

TxDOT officials said many of the bridges listed in the FHA report are already on the department's radar for updates in massive traffic construction projects.

The century-old West Seventh Street Bridge in Fort Worth appeared on both lists. It's now being replaced by the world's first precast network arch bridge.

"It was built mostly off site, so it minimizes impact on the motorists and businesses in this area," said Lopez.

Additionally, transportation officials said while the most critical bridges may show visible signs of need for repair, if a bridge is open to traffic, it is safe. Weight restrictions have been put on some bridges with identified safety issues. Bridges with red flags are often inspected more frequently than usual.

"If the bridge were dangerous, we would close it," said Lopez. "What we do if a bridge is structurally deficient, we make sure that it never gets to that point."

Read analysis from the Associated Press on what the report shows about bridges across the nation.

The full report includes bridge inventories for all states. Please click here for the original report.

The FHA notes that "the deficiency status of the data within these tables has been calculated by not taking into consideration the year built or the year reconstructed."

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