PennDOT putting more weight limits on bridges
Signs declaring some bridges off-limits to heavy vehicles are going up in Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties and around the state, meaning lengthy detours for some trucks carrying heavy loads, the head of PennDOT's Pittsburgh-area district office said on Monday.
“The average driver in a sedan probably won't see a change in their travel because the weight of the car will get across any bridge that remains open. However, that road that they travel might have additional trucks on it that are detoured off of another bridge,” said Dan Cessna, executive of PennDOT's District 11, which covers Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties.
“Over time, as trucks are taking longer detours, it's possible they're going to see increased costs because the goods and commodities that are being transported by truck will have a potentially longer travel route, which ultimately the consumer will pay that cost.”
PennDOT last month slapped weight restrictions on about 1,000 bridges statewide because lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have allocated money to fix some of the state's aging infrastructure. Allegheny County has 24 weight-restricted bridges, including the Liberty Bridge and the Elizabeth Bridge. Beaver County has five, including the Koppel Bridge, and Lawrence County has 16.
Cessna said the postings have started. He hopes to have them in place by the end of fall. Detours for major weight-restricted bridges will have alternate routes for trucks posted. The detour for the Liberty Bridge will route truckers to the Fort Pitt Bridge; the Elizabeth Bridge detour routes trucks to the Clairton-Glassport Bridge.
Jim Runk, president of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, said he is preparing a letter to Harrisburg lawmakers outlining his industry's concerns.
“We're obviously concerned about knocking a bridge down and we certainly don't want to do that,” Runk said. “(With weight restrictions) there could be hours of circuitous routes, increased driver hours — it could cost our industry millions of dollars per year.”
The Senate in June passed a $2.5 billion spending plan for roads, bridges and transit needs with a 45-5 vote. The bill would have raised money by lifting a cap on the tax that wholesalers pay for gasoline, which likely would mean higher prices at the pump. The bill included higher driver's license and registration fees. That bill and a House version that would have raised less money for transit stalled in the House.
State Rep. Daryl Met-calfe, R-Cranberry, suspects PennDOT's weight restrictions are a political ploy to get more money from lawmakers. He said PennDOT should prioritize which bridges need to be fixed and rely on some of the $7 billion the state gives the agency.
Cessna denied politics played a role in the decision.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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