PennDOT to catch up on big-ticket projects on roads, bridges
PennDOT officials say money from the state's transportation law will enable them to catch up on deferred maintenance of roads and bridges.
Spending on regular maintenance will increase 17 percent year-over-year to $897 million in fiscal year 2015, the first full year the law will be in effect. Big-ticket projects, such as road and bridge rehabilitations, will increase nearly 16 percent to $2.16 billion.
Some repairs that were delayed for years will cost more, officials said.
PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna, whose territory covers Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties, said regular maintenance in Allegheny County will increase 10 percent in the coming year.
“You could have always done more, but we've been able to maintain a minimum level (of maintenance) to keep the system together. We don't have state highways that are impossible to traverse because of potholes,” Cessna said.
Cessna said the maintenance budget was strained because the state lacked the money to repave roads as soon as it should have, forcing crews to do more pothole patching and crack sealing.
Bridge maintenance includes washing, painting and joint sealing. The state has paid particular attention to bridge repairs in recent years, in step with national concerns about the integrity of bridges after the Interstate 35W highway bridge collapse in Minnesota in 2007.
PennDOT could not afford everything it wanted, Cessna said.
“An example would be the Birmingham Bridge. In theory, that bridge probably should have been painted 10 years ago. Because of rusting, it now has more extensive steel repairs,” Cessna said.
The bridge is slated for a $40 million overhaul, starting this year.
Through March, the state led the nation in the number of structurally deficient bridges with 4,200, down from a peak of 6,034 in 2008, PennDOT officials said. Pennsylvania has the third-largest number of state-maintained bridges in the country.
Act 89, which the Legislature passed in 2013, increases the wholesale gasoline tax and vehicle-related fees. That money goes to PennDOT and mass transit agencies.
Carnegie Mellon University professor Al Biehler, who headed PennDOT for eight years under former Gov. Ed Rendell, said maintaining the transportation system is a constant issue.
“If you don't do regular maintenance — patching potholes, sealing cracks — it ends up costing a lot more to fix it. It extends the life, but you fall into a situation where you're doing more and more maintenance,” Biehler said. “Because of the backlog of maintenance problems, we didn't think we should look at any major widenings and instead shifted resources to rehabilitation.”
Biehler pointed to a 2008 incident with the Birmingham Bridge when a rocker bearing failed — in part because debris clogged expansion joints, allowing a section of it to drop about eight inches.
“Making sure expansion joints are clear has a lot to do with the ability to extend the life of a bridge,” Biehler said.
PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said Act 89 money should “make a huge difference.”
“Anyone that owns a house knows it's critical to keep up with routine maintenance,” he said. “If you let it go, it's going to cost more later.”
Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Allegheny Medical Examiner’s Office responds to Coraopolis train-pedestrian incident
- DOJ program goal: Increased trust between law enforcement, community
- Analyst says Pa. senate race leans toward Toomey — because Democrats ‘loathe’ Sestak
- Expert: Penn Hills loan could worsen stability
- Millions to travel through Western Pa. during Memorial Day weekend
- 9 juveniles charged in connection with opening day disturbance at Kennywood
- Police seize heroin, cash in North Versailles
- Trib wins 12 Golden Quills
- VA report shows W.Pa. error rate down, but inspectors point out delays in re-evaluating cases cost $493K
- Police charge suspect in fatal shooting in Jefferson Hills
- Grand jury investigating Plum sex scandal involving possibly 8 students