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Biden Administration Launches Program To Repair and Replace 15,000 Bridges, Including In South Florida

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – President Joe Biden on Friday announced a new program to repair and replace the nation's bridges through funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law that passed Congress in November including bridges in South Florida.

"My bipartisan infrastructure law includes the largest investment in our nation's bridges since the creation of the Interstate Highway System. Bridges to connect us, bridges to make America work," Biden said at the White House. "There's a lot of talk about disappointments and things we haven't gotten done -- we're gonna get a lot of them done, I might add -- but this is something we did get done."

Florida will receive roughly $245 million to repair and improve its bridges over five years under Biden's infrastructure law, according to the Department of Transportation.

There are 12,592 bridges in Florida, 408, or 3.2 percent, that are classified as structurally deficient, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. This means they can no longer safely support the weight they were designed to hold.  It sounds dangerous, but engineering experts say this classification doesn't mean the bridge is just going to collapse.

In addition, the ARTBA found Florida is one of 12 states where the number of structurally deficient bridges actually increased over the last five years.

One of those bridges is in Coral Gables which leads to Coconut Grove. It is nearly 80 years old and was built during WWII.  Experts have deemed it structurally deficient but the bridge still see lots of traffic. Tens of thousands of cars travel over it every day.

"You can see there is scaffolding under there. You can tell work has been done to it," said Nico Martin, of Pinecrest.

Nico and his friends like to paddleboard in the Coral Gables canal. Many times, they've floated underneath the old bridge.

"It's a little scary when we are paddle boarding underneath it, we always think, what if it falls down," he said.

Nico has seen people working on it several times, making repairs.

According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, more than 34,000 cars drive over it daily.

"It's been here for a while we always see them touching it up and there is always construction going on around it. It's always concerned me a little bit," said Martin.

While it is concerning, experts say the words 'structurally deficient,' don't immediately correlate with panic. The bridges are monitored.

"When it's determined the bridge can't support the load it was designed for. There are a number of things that can impact it," said Allyn Kilsheimer, CEO of KCE Structural.

Like human error, a flaw in the design of the bridge or evidence of stress.

"Depending on the magnitude of the issue and where it is on the bridge, that could classify it as structurally deficient," said Kilsheimer.

Friday, Miami-Dade County leaders celebrated the completion of the First Street Bridge Replacement Project.

First Street Bridge Replacement Project
First Street Bridge. (CBS4)

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava says there are several bridges in the county that need to be worked on or replaced all together. Some of the funding from the $1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill approved by President Biden will help with that.

"Certainly, we know the Bear Cut Bridge to Key Biscayne is a top priority and the Venetian Causeway is the one that has been identified as most at risk and we are proceeding to work on improvements with that bridge as well," said Levine Cava.

Within two years, they'll be getting started on upgrades for the 17th Avenue Bridge over the Miami River as well.

"I'm very happy that we have the federal dollars, we have the local and state approvement and we will be making a lot of improvements," said the mayor.

In the entire state of Florida, there are more than 1,000 bridges in need of repairs, at an estimated cost of $2.7 billion.

Three of the top ten most traveled structurally deficient bridges in the state are in South Florida, according to the Federal Highway Administration National Bridge Inventory.

(Source: American Road & Transportation Builders Association)

Broward tops the list with the bridge located at Northbound I-95 (SR-9) over the Hillsboro Canal. It was built in 1973 and has 102,000 daily crossings.

The same bridge, but headed in the Southbound direction takes the number 2 spot.

The bridge at SW 42 Avenue over the Coral Gables Canal in Miami-Dade County is 9th on the list. It was built in 1943 and has 34,503 daily crossings.

Click here to read more about the state of Florida's bridges.

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