Oftentimes, the most important cogs in the economic machine are the ones taken for granted. In the United States – an aspect of its economy that is largely taken for granted – a complex infrastructure network of roads, ports, and canals keeps the economy ticking. However, one piece of infrastructure ties this network together – bridges. In its 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) examined more than 617,000 bridges nationwide and graded their overall state at a C. Accounting for 7.5% of the nation’s total are 46,154 structurally deficient bridges on which 178 million daily trips are taken; which begs the questions, what are the possible impacts of these structurally deficient bridges and what is the solution to the dilapidation? 

The United States offers a couple of compelling case studies to find the answers to these questions. 

Minneapolis Interstate 35W Bridge: 

On August 1, 2007, during the height of rush hour traffic, the Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota suddenly collapsed causing 13 deaths and injuries to 145 people. The National Transportation Safety Board attributed the collapse to inadequate load capacity and critical design errors.  

The resulting economic losses from the bridge collapse while not as massive as was initially feared, were not insignificant. It is estimated that $17 million in 2007 and $43 million in 2008 were lost from the state’s predicted economic output for those years. Greater economic losses were mitigated when the United States Congress quickly authorized $250 million in federal funding to develop the replacement bridge – which was completed 13 months later.  

The events of August 1, 2007, in Minneapolis paint a vivid picture of the potential human and economic impacts of structurally deficient bridge construction. 

The Francis Scott Key Bridge: 

On March 26th of this year, the DALI container ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland causing its collapse and the tragic deaths of six construction workers. Beyond the immediate tragedy, the collapse had massive regional ramifications.  The bridge and Port of Baltimore are key access points for trucks and cargo ships delivering products to key regional markets. The port itself provides thousands of jobs to the citizens of Baltimore and can house a variety of cargo types spanning several different industries. The Bridges collapse is expected to have wider economic ramifications with already expensive products – due to inflation – expected to rise because of this new lack of supply and a diversion of 1.1 million shipping containers from the Port of Baltimore.  

The collapse and resulting limited operations at the Port of Baltimore are estimated to cost $15 million in daily economic activity. 

While the Baltimore collapse was not simply a result of dilapidation, it does provide a relevant example of the economic impacts bridge collapses can have – especially at critical economic inflection points. 


To bring the 46,145 bridges the ASCE has deemed as structurally deficient they propose a simple solution – spend money. The spend money method was proven effective by the aforementioned response to the Minneapolis I-35W Bridge collapse in 2007. The ACSE claims that for these bridges to be brought up to standard it will require $125 billion for preventative repairs and a 58% increase on the current spend to $22.7 billion to solve the issue. At the current rate of spending it would take until 2071 to complete the rehabilitation projects currently on the table. 

Robust bridge construction is crucial to maintaining United States citizens’ economic capabilities and safety. Given the dire state of bridges in the United States, the solution will only come as the quantity and method of spending improves. Lawmakers must heed this warning and provide sufficient capital while better implementing policy to ensure the safety and stability of the domestic economy.   


Written by Nicholas Cheyne, Public Policy Intern

The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) is an independent, national research and educational organization. An innovative think tank, Aii explores the intersection of economics, law, and public policy in the areas of climate, damage prevention, energy, infrastructure, innovation, technology, and transportation.