SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A recent report found that there are hundreds of structurally deficient bridges in Massachusetts. The 22News I-Team discovered what that means, and what the plan is to repair aging infrastructure.

MassDOT tracks the condition of bridges all across the state. Over 600 bridges are considered structurally deficient. Carrie Lavallee is Deputy Administrator and Chief Engineer for MassDOT. She says “structurally deficient” doesn’t mean unsafe.

“It means that during the inspection there were elements that we qualified as being ‘poor’ on our rating scale,” said Lavallee.

The scale they use is zero to 9. Nine is a brand new bridge and zero is a closed bridge. A structurally deficient bridge is a four. “When we do find a bridge at that poor condition, we will increase the number of inspections we do, we will look at additional maintenance we could do to improve the stability of the bridge, and look for ways to move it up in our priority for repair,” said Lavallee.

According to MassDOT data, the Connecticut River Valley region has the highest total of structurally deficient bridges of any region in the state. One of those bridges is the one that connects Ludlow and Springfield over the Chicopee River. It was built more than eight decades ago.

A recent report put out by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center says the age of bridges in Massachusetts is part of the problem.

“American bridges average 44 years old since they were built or reconstructed. In Massachusetts, our bridges average 56 years old,” said Phineas Baxandall, Mass Budget’s Senior Analyst and Advocacy Director.

Structurally deficient bridges are on average 73 years old.

“It’s kind of like an old house or an old car,” Baxandall said. “It’s more likely to break down, and requires a little bit more resources to keep up.”

Sometimes, a bridge will have a weight limit imposed. Smaller vehicles and cars can use it, but big trucks would need to find another way.

“Emergency vehicles are often heavy,” explained Baxandall. “So that means a fire truck, perhaps, can’t take the fastest way to you and it has to take a longer way around.”

The Mass Budget report also found that the average person here in Massachusetts lives about 1.7 miles from a structurally deficient bridge. But communities of color, on average, live even closer than that. Lavallee told the I-Team they are actively working to fix that.

“We look at the geography to make sure we are getting a fair makeup across the Commonwealth, and we look at social-equity analysis where we look at our environmental justice population including low-income minorities and limited-English populations,” said Lavallee.

MassDOT is spending $3 billion on infrastructure in the next 5 years. Lavallee calls it a “historical investment.”

“The money that we will be getting will make a big dent in it and we’re hoping to really reduce the amount of structurally deficient bridges,” Lavallee said. “But again, bridges deteriorate over time, so it’s an ongoing list that we are constantly monitoring.”

Lavallee says you’ll notice these infrastructure projects popping up between now and 2026.