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Local Experts Emphasize Importance Of Bridge, Infrastructure Maintenance

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- It's no secret how deficient this nation's infrastructure has become.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, we're spending about $13 billion every year to fix the bridges in need of repair. That's about $8 billion short of what it says is really needed.

This week in Cincinnati a man was killed when a bridge overpass to Interstate 75 collapsed. It was a routine bridge demolition gone terribly wrong.

There are thousands of infrastructure projects just like it across the country.

One in nine bridges in the United States is rated as structurally deficient. And 32 percent of major roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

That was the topic of conversation during this week's taping of the KD/PG Sunday Edition.

The guests stressed that we need to take care of our roads and bridges.

"Maintenance is not something that we put a lot of emphasis on from a political will perspective and we need to maintain these things," said Kent Harries, of Pitt's Swanson Engineering School. "The bulk of the nation's infrastructure ... the average bridge in the United States is over 40-years-old, in Pennsylvania I think it's over 50-years-old. I'm comfortably over 40 and I know I do regular maintenance."

"We still have 4,100 structurally deficient bridges," added PennDOT's Dan Cessna.

One of those structurally deficient bridges is a major artery in and out of the city the Liberty Bridge.

"Liberty Bridge is structurally deficient and it is fully under design right now and going to construction in August of 2015," said Cessna. "It doesn't mean that it's a hazard or needs to be closed at this point. But it means that if left unchecked, unrepaired for a long period of time that there would be an issue."

We focus quite a bit on bridges because there are so many of them in Pittsburgh.

But officials say, when talking about infrastructure, we need to look beyond roads and bridges.

"We got everything from dams and levees to airports to buried infrastructure – water, wastewater, things that we rely on every hour rather than every day," said Harries.

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