How good are Washington state bridges and ferries?

There's a one in ten chance that the bridge you drive over is in not very good shape. State ferries are also coming under scrutiny from the Governor as the fleet gets older.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - More than 9 percent of the bridges in Washington State are considered in poor condition, and nearly 11 percent of Washington State owned ferries are considered "past due" for replacement.

Those were two of the highlights from a meeting in Olympia with Governor Jay Inslee on the state's transportation infrastructure.  

Results Washington is part of the governor's mission established in 2013 to better assess just how the state is operating, in part through performance audits.

Related: Results of the audit

The review isn't as much about building new projects worthy of a ribbon cutting, but preserving what we have longer.

Take the state bridge conditions, which are measured as the condition of the bridge deck. In 2016, state-owned bridges in poor shape rose to 9.2 percent from 8.8 percent in 2015. Ten percent of locally owned bridges that are on a route part of the National Highway System are in poor shape, up from 8.3 percent.  

"We have a number of bridges that are more than 80 years of age,"  Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Roger Millar told Inslee.

But with more than 90 percent of bridges in good condition, that meets the state's goal for continued federal funding. The number is also expected to improve several percentage points once the new tunnel under Seattle is completed and the aging remains of the Alaska Way Viaduct are torn down and removed from inventory.  

Whether it's maintaining the state's bridges, roads, or ferries, WSDOT is managing a moving target. Today's 70-year-old bridge becomes an 80-year-old bridge in another decade. In some cases bridges are a century old, including the northbound bridge crossing the Columbia River between Portland, Ore. and Vancouver, Wash.

"The bridge would not fare well in an earthquake," Millar told KING 5. "We know that, and decision makers know that."

Copyright 2017 KING


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