FACT CHECK: Were 40% Of Bridges Built Before The First Moon Landing?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

President Donald Trump claimed during a speech Thursday that nearly 40 percent of all bridges were built before the first moon landing in 1969.

Verdict: True

Forty-one percent of all bridges were built before 1969.

Fact Check:

Trump travelled to Ohio Thursday to speak before a crowd of union workers about his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. The plan, released back in February, would require $200 billion in federal funding, with the remaining investment coming from state and local governments as well as private investors.

“Following on the success of tax reform, infrastructure is the next piece of the President’s successful economic agenda,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday.

During the speech, Trump lamented America’s “crumbling infrastructure” and rattled off a series of stats about the country’s roadways and mass transit systems. “Nearly 40 percent of our bridges were built before – think of this – before the first moon landing,” he said at one point.

The President was close – 41 percent of the country’s 615,000 bridges were built before 1969, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) National Bridge Inventory (NBI) database.

Since most bridges were designed with a useful life of 50 years, the stat raises important questions about the safety of America’s infrastructure.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that in 2016, 188 million trips were made across structurally deficient bridges each day. These are bridges that require significant rehabilitation or replacement. “Structurally deficient bridges are not unsafe, but could become so and need to be closed without substantial improvements,” says the ASCE’s 2017 infrastructure report card.

While four in 10 bridges were built before 1969, only 9 percent of bridges are rated as structurally deficient by the FHWA.

Forty-five percent are in “fair” condition, meaning they are beginning to deteriorate. “All primary structural elements are sound but may have minor corrosion, cracking or chipping,” according to the NBI rating scale.

Federal, state and local governments perform preventative maintenance on these bridges to extend their useful life. But the Department of Transportation estimated in 2012 that fully repairing the country’s structurally deficient bridges will require a $123 billion investment.

There has been some progress made to date, however; the number of deficient bridges has dropped from nearly 67,000 in 2012 to about 55,000 today.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
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