Bridge Repair Program Unfocused, Says GAO

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Washington (AP) Congressional investigators say many of the nation's largest and most seriously deficient bridges aren't getting fixed because a federal program funding the work is unfocused and lacks sufficient standards.

A draft report from the government accountability office says the highway bridge program that provided more than $4 billion to states last year has become so broad that “nearly any bridge” is potentially eligible for federal aid.

According to the GAO, the number of structurally deficient bridges in the U.S. Decreased 22 percent between 1998 and 2007, from 93,118 to 73,519.

But most improvements have been to locally owned and rural bridges rather than the largest bridges in urban areas that carry the most people and goods.

Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, who requested the study, says it underscores the need to reform the bridge program.

The GAO report is being released a little over a year after the collapse of the I-35w bridge in Minneapolis.