Weight restrictions placed on 14 Armstrong bridges to comply with state regulations

PennDOT officials Joseph Dubovi and James Andrews survey a bridge crossing  Little Brush Creek along Route 56 in Brush Valley Township, Indiana County. Thursday September 19, 2013
PennDOT officials Joseph Dubovi and James Andrews survey a bridge crossing Little Brush Creek along Route 56 in Brush Valley Township, Indiana County. Thursday September 19, 2013
Photo by Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
| Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

PennDOT officials plan to place weight restrictions on approximately 1,000 bridges across Pennsylvania because of structural deficiencies, including 14 in Armstrong County.

In PennDOT's District 10, which includes Armstrong, Indiana, Jefferson, Clarion and Butler counties, officials plan to place immediate weight restrictions on 50 bridges.

Each bridge's weight limit is lowered to 80 percent of its legal limit, according to Joseph Dubovi, executive of District 10.

Eight of Armstrong County's 14 structurally deficient bridges reduced weight limits are being posted for the first time, while six have already had their weight limits reduced once and are facing further weight limit reductions, according to a PennDOT report.

For example, officials plan to reduce the weight limit from 14 tons to 12 tons on the Eddyville Road Bridge, over Pine Run, in Redbank, while the Route 66 bridge over Guffy Run in Parks Township, faces a 26-ton weight limit restriction for the first time.

“The number of bridges in Armstrong County is about average for at-risk bridges,” Dubovi said.

The average car and passenger truck ranges from 1.5 to three tons, while a loaded school bus and charter bus range from 17 to 20 tons, according to a PennDOT report. Larger vehicles, including a loaded coal truck, typically weigh 36 tons, while a loaded tractor trailer weighs 40 tons.

Dubovi said state officials inspect bridges every two years to determine their condition and safety rating.

“There will be more bridges on the weight limit reduction list as our inspectors continue to go out and as our bridges get older,” Dubovi said. “The average age of bridges in Pennsylvania is 51 years, but in District 10, the average age is 56 years.”

During the inspection, officials rank the condition of load-bearing beams, known as the super structure, the bridge piers and abutments and the surface on a scale of zero to nine. Whenever any portion of the bridge structure receives a ranking of four or below, it is labeled structurally deficient, Dubovi said.

Whenever the bridge piers and abutments, or the superstructure, receive a ranking of four, officials reduce the weight limits on the bridge, he added.

“We want to determine if it can still carry loads that are less than their maximum weight limits,” Dubovi said. “We hope to extend the life of these bridges by reducing the load it carries.”

Some of the bridges could carry their weight limits indefinitely, depending on their location and the amount of traffic.

PennDOT officials plan to focus on interstates first, then state routes, such as Route 22, Route28 and Route 66, Dubovi said.

They plan to focus on secondary and local bridges last, he said.

“Federal funding is tightening up, and right now, we don't have enough state funds to address the structures we have that are considered bad,” Dubovi said. “Some of the bridges on smaller roads' weight limits could stay reduced for a very long time.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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