Highways commissioner: Increasing number of bridges in poor condition still safe for travel

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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) - The routes we travel every day in West Virginia usually include a bridge or two.

US Route 50 over I-79 (WDTV)

But how many of them need to be repaired? How many can handle the traffic passing over them every day?

The quality of a bridge is rated by its sufficiency based on inspection ratings.

A 2019 report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association said 20% of all bridges in West Virginia were deemed structurally deficient - meaning one key element is in poor or worse condition.

Only Rhode Island has a higher percentage of bad bridges.

20% of all bridges in Harrison County received the lowest rating, including two of the most-traveled bad bridges in the state: US Route 50 over WV 20 in Clarksburg and US Route 50 over I-79.

Acting Commissioner of Highways Jimmy Wriston told 5 News Thursday the poor condition of the bridges doesn't mean they're unsafe.

"Our bridges are safe," Wriston said. "They're as safe as any bridge in the country. They're the safe bridges."

He said they go through what he called a "world-class" inspection program to ensure their safety.

"Are they in poor condition as opposed to a good of fair condition? Yes. And that percentage is growing," Wriston said. "That's what happens when you go through a four or eight-year cycle of pulling money from the bridge program to go out there and paint the roads black."

In Washington, Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is backing a bipartisan infrastructure bill that would provide $287 billion to maintain and repair roads and bridges over five years.

She said around $355 million would come to West Virginia in the first year - much of it devoted to fixing bridges.

"A lot of them are unsafe," Capito said. "They're old, they're antiquated, and they need repaired and replaced...I think that dedication to bridge repair is going to be critical to the next several years."

If you want to see the bad bridges in *your* neighborhood, an interactive map created by the Washington Post can be found in 'Related Links' (below on mobile, to the right on desktop).