PennDOT chief: Without bridge repairs, Pennsylvania likely to add weight limits
By Jason Cato
Published: Monday, June 3, 2013, 10:20 p.m.
The fallout from choosing not to repair thousands of Pennsylvania bridges would almost certainly be a sharp increase in the number of weight-limited structures, PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said Monday at the International Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh.
“We have a large number of bridges in Pennsylvania on the bubble,” Schoch told several hundred industry and government officials in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.
Schoch is hopeful lawmakers in Harrisburg will pass a Gov. Tom Corbett-backed plan that would generate $5.3 billion in transportation funding over five years.
“We expect this bill to pass,” said Schoch, who will be back in Pittsburgh with Corbett on Friday as part of a statewide publicity blitz to build support for the plan. “We're hopeful something makes it to the governor's desk. There are implications of doing nothing.”
Among those would be imposing weight restrictions.
Today, about 600 state bridges have weight limits. If lawmakers do not pass a spending bill to pay for replacements and repairs, that number could increase to nearly 1,400, Schoch said for the first time. That could lengthen routes and force higher costs on commercial shippers, school districts and others, he said.
“I'm not suggesting we are in a situation where these bridges are unsafe or will collapse,” Schoch said. “But as the secretary, I have to make a decision.”
A steel-truss bridge collapse last month north of Seattle raised concerns about the safety of aging infrastructure around the country. Three people were injured. No one was killed.
The Washington state bridge that fell into the Skagit River was built in 1955. The average age of Pennsylvania's 25,000 state bridges is 51 years, Schoch said.
“So for every new one, there is one that is 75 years old,” he said.
The Washington bridge passed inspections and was not unsafe, Schoch said.
“But it's an indication of the ages of bridges,” he said. “They don't last forever. We have to err on the side of conservatism. We have to lessen the load on those bridges, lessen the likeliness of a collapse.”
Pennsylvania has the third-most state-owned bridges in the country with about 25,000. An additional 6,400 bridges span locally owned roads.
Nearly 4,500 bridges in the state are structurally deficient, according to a March report from PennDOT. It cautions that those bridges are safe but that one or more major components has deteriorated. Over the next two years, PennDOT plans to put contracts out for bid to rebuild more than 600 bridges.
Of the 4,209 bridges in the seven-county Pittsburgh region, 949 are structurally deficient, according to PennDOT. That includes 232 of the 1,180 bridges in Allegheny County.
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Obama, House Republicans trade accusations in thwarting immigration reform
- Denver wife killed 12 minutes into 911 call, sparking inquiry
- Penguins rally to escape with victory in Game 1 vs. Columbus
- Peduto says Penguins playoff series will be economic boon
- Q&A with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
- Veteran North Huntingdon police officer fired
- Former Pitt captain Cavanaugh blazes trail as entrepreneur
- Penguins notebook: Goc skates, tests ailing ankle
- Reward offered in six-year-old homicide in Clairton
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- Legislative sting’s scope broad, diverse