Map Source: The U.S.D.O.T. Bureau Of Transportation Statistics
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WLTX/AAA) -- A 55-year-old bridge in Richland County carrying more than a half-million vehicles each week is rated South Carolina's top substandard bridge for the 12th time, according to AAA Carolinas.
The Interstate 26 bridge that passes over C.N. and L. Railroad, three miles northwest of Columbia, has been number one on the list every year since 2000 except in 2009, when it was number two.
Richland and Lexington counties each had three bridges in the top 20 of AAA Carolinas' list.
AAA Carolinas' 2013 rankings found:
• The average age of AAA Carolinas' top 20 substandard bridges in South Carolina is 53 years, compared to 57 last year.
• The top 20 substandard bridges on AAA Carolinas' list carry an average of 53,645 vehicles daily.
• Combined, the top 20 bridges carry more than 7.5 million vehicles each week.
• A total of 1,823 bridges are substandard, down 57 from the 1,880 bridges listed in AAA's 2012 report.
In addition, the U.S. Department Of Transportation ranks South Carolina as being the 12th in the United States for percentage of structurally deficient bridges.
South Carolina has the lowest highway funding per mile in the country, with the fourth-largest state-maintained highway system, covering more than 41,000 miles.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation is also responsible for 8,157 bridges; substandard bridges account for 22% of all South Carolina bridges.
"Inadequate funding for road and bridge maintenance over the past decade means we still have a significant number of substandard bridges in South Carolina," said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. "We need to find new sources of funding for our state's Department of Transportation."
The South Carolina Department of Transportation has been dealing with annual budget shortfalls. In 2007, SCDOT began shifting more funding toward bridge replacement and rehabilitation, from approximately $65 million annually to the current level of $119 million.
"During the 2013 South Carolina legislative year, the Governor and General Assembly have expressed focusing any additional resources available on bridges to ensure safety and to support economic development," said South Carolina Secretary of Transportation Robert St. Onge.
"SCDOT has also rebalanced our three-phased approach to bridge maintenance that includes replacement, rehabilitation and preservation projects," added St. Onge. "This approach enables us to get the maximum service life out of our structures for the most economical cost."
The South Carolina legislature is searching for additional revenue and new taxation sources to help improve the inadequate annual funding for the state's transportation infrastructure, but efforts to reach a passable transportation budget have proven difficult so far.
South Carolina has a lower percentage of substandard bridges than neighboring North Carolina's 39%, but other southeastern states, including Tennessee (19%) and Georgia (19%) have done a better job addressing their bridge and road needs.
The counties with the highest number of substandard bridges are Spartanburg (137), Greenville (134), Charleston (115) and Anderson (97), but counties with the highest percentage of substandard bridges are Charleston (42%), Lancaster (40%), Edgefield (34%) and Aiken (31%).
The counties with the lowest percentage of substandard bridges are Calhoun (3%), Florence (8%), Hampton (11%) and Williamsburg (12%).
SCDOT states that it restricts bridges to safe weight levels or closes any bridge that poses a threat to safety.
Substandard bridges are officially classified under federal guidelines as "structurally deficient" or "functionally obsolete" with AAA Carolinas assigning extra weight to traffic volume to highlight bridges affecting the most motorists.
"Structurally deficient" is defined as being in relatively poor physical condition and/or inadequate to handle truck weight.
"Functionally obsolete" is defined as having inadequate design for current traffic volume. States inspect bridges to determine their condition and qualify for federal aid replacement funds when a bridge scores less than 50 on a 100-point scale.