N.C.: ‘We Are Not Sure’ Why Obama Got Facts Wrong on Bridges

By Grant M. Dahl | September 19, 2011 | 12:05 PM EDT

President Barack Obama speaking at North Carolina State University on Sept. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

(CNSNews.com) - The North Carolina Department of Transportation say it is “not sure” how President Barack Obama came up with the statistic that there are 153 “structurally deficient bridges” in that state--in arguing for more federal stimulus spending before “another bridge falls.”

In fact, according to the department, there are far more than 153 “structurally deficient” bridges in North Carolina—but the designation “structurally deficient” does not mean they are in any way unsafe. 

“[W]e are not sure how President Obama’s staff came up with the number he referenced about structurally deficient bridges in North Carolina,” department communications officer Julie Merchant told CNSNews.com.

In a speech at Raleigh, North Carolina on Wednesday, September 14, 2011, Obama said: “In North Carolina alone, there are 153 structurally deficient bridges that need to be repaired. Four of them are near here, on or around the Beltline. Why would we wait to act until another bridge falls?”

On his program the next day, radio host Rush Limbaugh challenged Obama to tell the public where exactly these 153 structurally deficient bridges were.

CNSNews.com contacted the White House and the North Carolina Department of Transportation to determine the source for Obama’s statement.

The website of the North Carolina Department of Transportation includes a public listing of the bridges in the state per county. The list says there are 2,696 bridges—not 153—that are “structurally deficient.”

Merchant stressed that this designation does not mean the bridge is dangerous, and that all open bridges in the state are safe.

“If a bridge is listed as structurally deficient, it means that there are elements of the bridge that need to be monitored to maintain its structural integrity,” Merchant said.

“It does not mean the bridge is unsafe; it can’t carry a certain amount of weight. Even if it was maybe designed to carry a certain amount of weight, but it can now carry less weight, then we reduce the weight limit and so we monitor that. But, we make it work basically,” Merchant said.

The listing of bridges on the department's website says: "A bridge is Structurally Deficient if it is in relatively poor condition, or has insufficient load-carrying capacity. The insufficient load capacity could be due to the original design or to deterioration."

“All open bridges in North Carolina are safe,” Merchant said.

The White House has not responded to CNSNews.com’s inquiries asking for the source of President Obama’s statement that there are 153 structurally deficient bridges in North Carolina.