HAMPTON ROADS--It's hard to go anywhere in Hampton Roads without driving over water, which means driving on a bridge.
The federal government gives every bridge in the country a grade from one to 100. The grade takes into account factors like age, design and wear and tear of the structure.
In a 13News Now investigation, we found 87 bridges in Hampton Roads classified as structurally deficient by the federal government.
The lower the grade, the more time and money it takes to keep a bridge safe. Of the region's 87 structurally deficient bridges, more than two-thirds received a grade below 50.
Four of the region's worst bridges received a single-digit score.
VDOT and federal officials use the grades to help decide which bridges to fix and replace.
"When something becomes structurally deficient we inspect it more often, we pay more attention to it and, typically, it requires more investment in maintenance money to keep it safe for the traveling public," explained VDOT engineer Jim Long.
Long and his team are responsible for handing out report cards for local bridges.
The bridge spanning Indian Creek on Indian Creek Road in Chesapeake got an 8.9; the westbound lanes of the Lesner Bridge in Virginia Beach got a 7.5; the Turlington Road Bridge spanning the Kilby Creek spillway got a 5; and the 22nd Street Bridge crossing Seaboard Avenue got a 2.
13News Now spoke with one driver who knew the Turlington Road Bridge was dangerous before ever hearing its score.
"I don't go down Turlington, that's a problem. I avoid it at all costs," Jennifer Mason said. "I'm gonna go out of my way to make sure I can get to my house safely."
When we asked Long if drivers like Mason should be worried, he said absolutely not.
"If there was any chance in my mind that any of those bridges were not safe we would close them to traffic immediately," Long said.
One thing VDOT does to keep structurally deficient bridges safe is reduce the posted weight for vehicles allowed on the bridge, according to Long.
Officials in Chesapeake reduced the weight for vehicles allowed on the Centerville Bridge on Tuesday.
Reducing vehicle weight and continual maintenance is what Long and his team have to do until a bridge can be replaced, a grim prospect when you consider the number of bridges vying for a small pot of government money.
"There's a lot of different factors that go into which ones are getting replaced," Long explained. "It's dependent on us having state dollars to match it, it's dependent on having funding available."
Long says a stream of new money means more projects are in the pipeline, thanks to highway funding reform pushed through the legislature by Governor Bob McDonnell last year.
That additional funding means 30 structurally deficient bridges in Hampton Roads will be replaced in the next six years.