In recent years, investment at all levels of government has prioritized fixing bridges. The federal government estimates that $17.5 billion was spent on bridge capital projects in 2012, with $6 billion from the federal government and $11.5 billion from state and local sources. This is a substantial increase from the $11.5 billion that was spent on bridges in 2006. Investments in bridges were bolstered in 2009 and 2010 with the influx of additional funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and peaked in 2010 with $18 billion spent. Despite the recent increases in spending, investments in the country’s bridges are insufficient. The most recent federal estimate puts the backlog of rehabilitation projects for the nation’s bridges at $123 billion. See the Roads chapter for more information on public spending on highways, including bridges.
The past decade has also been marked with uncertainty for the federal surface transportation program, making it a challenge for state transportation agencies to make long-term plans. In December 2015, Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a five-year surface transportation bill, which should secure federal funding through 2020, however implementation of the increased funding levels included in the FAST Act has been delayed due to Congress’ inability to pass a new spending bill.
Federal investment in bridges has historically been paid for from the Highway Trust Fund, however, the fund has been teetering on the brink of insolvency for nine years due to the limitations of its primary funding source, the federal motor fuels tax. The state of the Highway Trust Fund is explored in greater depth in the Roads chapter.Back to Bridges