Cumberland Times-News

Local News

May 11, 2013

Will gas tax fund Maryland bridge repair?

87 state spans deficient, SHA data show

ANNAPOLIS — Republican Sen. Richard Colburn of Dorchester voted against Maryland’s recently passed gas tax increase, but now hopes some of the new money will go to replacing the Dover Bridge in his district.

The new taxes, initially expected to raise prices at the pump by 4 cents a gallon this July, might help to expand funding for the rehabilitation and replacement of Maryland’s deteriorating bridges.

As of April, 87 of the 2,572 Maryland State Highway Administration maintained bridges were structurally deficient, which doesn’t mean they are unsafe, but that they have areas that need to be repaired or replaced, according to data from the State Highway Administration.

Another 373 bridges maintained by the State Highway Administration are functionally obsolete, which means they have lanes that are too narrow or are otherwise not built to current standards, according to the 2012 National Bridge Inventory Database compiled by the Federal Highway Administration.

“It’s a major public safety concern,” Colburn said of the Dover Bridge, which is considered functionally obsolete because of its narrow lanes.

In 2011, 39 states had a higher percentage of deficient bridges than Maryland, according to a report by the Transportation for America Coalition, an organization dedicated to transportation reform. Pennsylvania had the highest percentage of deficient bridges.

Maintenance and replacement of the State Highway Administration’s bridges is mainly funded by the federal government, but Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund takes on about 20 percent of the cost, said David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The Transportation Trust Fund is used to pay for transportation infrastructure projects and maintenance. About one-fifth of the fund’s revenue comes from the gas tax. The rest comes from sources such as vehicle titling and registration fees.

Before the new gas tax, known as the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013, passed, the fund was projected to run out of money by 2018. The in-creased gas tax is expected to yield more than $116 million in additional revenue in its first year, which should help fund projects such as mass transit and road maintenance.

Bridges are considered structurally deficient once the superstructure, substructure or deck receives a rating below five on a scale of 0 to 10, Buck said.

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