Bridge weight limits across the state of Pennsylvania force long detours
By Rick Wills
Published: Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013
New weight restrictions placed on deteriorating bridges by PennDOT have stranded Steighner Crane Service Inc., owner John Steighner said.
When Steighner hauls a crane from his business in Summit, Butler County, the weight of the truck and crane are about 72 tons.
He no longer can use a Route 2002 bridge along Herman Road over Coal Run in Butler Township because it received a 33-ton limit or 40 tons for combination loads.
He wants written permission from Summit to haul his cranes on Bonniebrook Road, which has a weight limit of 25 tons.
“If we get pulled over, I want to have permission to be on that road. These weight limits on bridges have us boxed in. It is forcing us onto other weight-limited township roads,” said Steighner, whose company was founded in 1938.
Attempts to reach Summit officials on Wednesday were not successful.
The state has or will place weight limits on 18 bridges in Butler County. They are among 1,000 bridges across the state with weight limits imposed by PennDOT because of the Legislature's failure to approve a transportation funding package. The lower weight limits will help extend the service life of deteriorating bridges, PennDOT officials said.
For Steighner and several other business owners, the weight limits can cause detours of up to 15 to 20 miles.
“I have not even been given an official detour,” said Chuck Bauer, owner of Bauer Excavating Inc. in Butler Township, whose trucks generally weigh about 36 tons.
Pennsylvania has more structurally deficient bridges than any other state, according to PennDOT.
The Legislature failed before its summer recess to pay for infrastructure repairs.
That inaction frustrates local officials like Bill McCarrier, chairman of Butler County commissioners, who is trying to work with the companies and has urged legislators to pass a transportation bill.
“This Herman Road bridge is of particular concern. There are three businesses that have contacted the county because they cannot legally leave or enter their own businesses,” McCarrier said.
In June, the county commissioners wrote to Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican member of the state House from Cranberry, urging him to vote for the transportation package. The Senate's $2.5 billion bill would lift the cap on the wholesale gasoline tax as the primary funding source.
Many House members objected to the tax, including Metcalfe, who told the county commissioners that he won't vote for a tax increase.
“We need to find the money somewhere else,” Metcalfe said on Wednesday.
Last week, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said he would allow a vote on Gov. Tom Corbett's transportation infrastructure spending plan. Turzai opposes the plan.
PennDOT spokeswoman Deborah Casadei said weight restrictions would be lifted if a bridge is scheduled for repairs to start within two years.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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