Butler County drivers brace for weight-limit impact
School officials, government representatives and motorists are bracing for lower weight limits that PennDOT will place on 18 bridges in Butler County in the next six months.
“In the city, a detour might be a matter of three or four minutes. In more rural areas, much more time can be lost driving around bridges,” said Brenda Collins, transportation director for the Butler Area School District, which each day transports about 7,000 students on 124 buses to 14 schools.
A total of 1,000 structurally deficient bridges in Pennsylvania are slated to have reduced weight limits.
PennDOT is taking this step because of the Legislature's failure to approve a transportation funding package, which makes the department's ability to repair or replace these bridges uncertain, said Deborah L. Casadei, a spokeswoman for PennDOT's District 10. The lower weight limits will help extend the service life of these deteriorating bridges.
PennDOT announced Tuesday that the weight limit on the Connoquenessing Creek bridge on McCalmont Road in Butler Township has been lowered to 26 tons or 29 tons for combination loads, primarily tractor trailers.
“This will be one of the first Butler County bridges to have its weight limit lowered,” Casadei said.
The Route 308 bridge over Muddy Creek in Clay now has a 30-ton limit, or 40 tons for combination loads. The Route 2002 bridge along Herman Road over Coal Run in Butler Township got a 33-ton limit or 40 tons for combination loads.
Local and county officials and some businesses say they're not happy with state government and the restrictions, which they say would complicate school bus routes and garbage removal, and would be bad for business.
“There are garbage trucks and school buses that use that road,” said Ed Kirkwood, Butler Township's manager, referring to McCalmont Road. “I do not know what impact this will have.”
If heavier vehicles are rerouted because of the weight limit, Kirkwood said, the detours will be major.
“It would create a multiple-mile detour. It would be at least five miles, possibly more,” he said.
Under the new weight restriction, an ambulance, mail truck and most garbage trucks will be allowed on the bridge. The limit could, according to PennDOT, make it unlikely that cement trucks, dump trucks, salt spreaders and some fire engines could use it.
“Changes on weight limits will probably affect us. It depends on how much they drop the weight limit,” Collins said.
Last year, access for school buses to the Penn Street bridge in downtown Butler was eliminated because the weight limit was lowered, which Collins said cut off easy access to several neighborhoods. It is the third bridge in the city of Butler that school buses can't cross because of reduced weight limits.
The Butler County bridges on PennDOT's list are located primarily in Butler and in northern and more rural sections of the county. No weight limit changes are planned for bridges in the heavily populated southern part of the county.
Dilapidated bridges can hurt businesses, particularly trucking companies, officials said.
“There could be a lot of rerouting because of this, especially in northern sections of Butler County,” said Alexis Benson, who works at the John Dean Clark Trucking Co., in Butler, a heavy hauling company that moves excavators and cranes — often over long distances.
PennDOT owns eight of the Butler County bridges slated for weight restrictions. The other 10 belong either to the county or municipalities.
District 10's five-county region of Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Indiana and Jefferson counties will have weight restrictions on 45 bridges.
Pennsylvania has more structurally deficient bridges than any other state, according to PennDOT.
The Legislature failed before its summer recess to raise gasoline taxes and motorist fees to pay for infrastructure repairs.
Lower weight limits frustrate municipal managers and county officials.
“All the General Assembly is doing is kicking the can down the road. If we want to feel safe driving on roads, we have to pay for it,” said Kirkwood of Butler Township.
Bill McCarrier, chair of Butler County Commissioners, said state officials have to come up with funding to fix bridges. Because fuel efficiency has improved, taxing gasoline by the gallon has become obsolete, he said.
“Either the tax needs to be raised or we should tax by mileage, as some states are now doing,” he said.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944.
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.
- Toys for Tots distributor in Butler County searches for home
- Connoquenessing Valley innovative learning space emphasizes interaction
- Aldi set to open Cranberry location
- High number of rentals a double-edged sword for Butler
- Butler County community reigns as king of Cranberries
- Butler Township man in jail after reportedly holding woman at gunpoint
- Butler County to join growing 911 network
- Drilling regulations divisive in Middlesex