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Biking and Walking Access Now Required on Bridges!

The U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) issued guidance today on their bridge improvement program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Under the law anytime a state replaces or rehabilitates any highway bridge deck they must include biking and walking access.

There are only two exceptions to the rule:

  1. If the roads leading to the bridge on both sides do not allow bicycling or walking (such as an interstate) or
  2. If adding bicycling and walking access will cost more than 20% of the cost to repair/replace the bridge deck. (The deck is the top of the bridge, the lanes, sidewalks and bikeways).

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has stated they will not issue waivers except for in these two cases.

As any bicyclist knows, bridges can often be a barrier in creating a safe and accessible bicycling network. By ensuring bridges have access, FHWA will help meet Secretary Buttigieg’s goal of removing barriers to opportunity! 

More bridges could look like the Raven Bridge in Charleston, SC, or the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in the Washington, DC, area with these new investments!

What About New Bridges?

The FHWA guidance is clear that they are focused on maintaining and repairing bridges already in service. If a state wants to build a new bridge they will have to explain how the bridge helps remove barriers to opportunity, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and improves access for people biking, walking, rolling and taking transit. The DOT has defined automobile dependency as a barrier.

Also in the law, 15% of the program must be spent on locally-owned bridges. Those projects can be 100% federally funded.  

So if your community has some bridges needing repair now might be the time to push those projects forward. 

Watch this space for more details!