PennDOT's focus on bridges leaves District 10's secondary roads in the rough
By Greg Reinbold
Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
PennDOT District 10 officials outlined the department's accomplishments and future plans for area road and bridge projects at an annual outreach forum held March 22 in Indiana.
In 2012, the district closed out 51 projects in its five-county footprint with construction payments totaling more than $125 million.
Of that total, just over $37 million went toward bridge preservation projects, reducing the number of structurally-deficient bridges in the district from 413 to 384.
This year, the district has proposed 11 bridge preservation projects and 23 bridge replacements with costs totaling $37,637,000. District executive Joseph Dubovi said 31.1 percent of Indiana County's bridges were deemed structurally-deficient at the end of 2012 – well above the state average of 17.6 percent.
While PennDOT's focus, statewide and locally, has been on bridge projects, roadway conditions have suffered.
Conditions on the majority of the district's secondary roadways – those with an average daily traffic total of under 2,000 vehicles – are rated poor on the International Roughness Index.
Of the 2,032 miles of secondary roadway in the district, 1,172.5 (57.7 percent) received the poor rating.
“We were driving that number down (after changes to the gas tax system in 1997 began to generate more revenue for PennDOT), and then the cost of doing business went up in about 2006 or around that time period. We also started focusing on structurally-deficient bridges a little more heavily,” Dubovi said.
“Prior to that we probably did a 60-40 split or even a 50-50 split on where we would spend our money between bridges and roadways. There was probably a time in there where we were 90-10, where we're not doing anything with our roadways because we're trying to address the structurally-deficient bridges in the state,” Dubovi added. “That was the right thing to do at the time. You can travel on a rough road, but if we post or close a bridge, you're not going to get across it. That's what we had to do, and you can see because we had to do that, our numbers are starting to increase on the roughness on that secondary system.”
The district completed resurfacing projects on 175.8 miles of roadways in 2012, 75.3 in Indiana County. The planned total of resurfacing miles in 2013 is just 50.04.
Dubovi also outlined components of Gov. Corbett's five-year transportation plan which will incrementally uncap the Oil Company Franchise Tax and reduce the flat tax paid at the pump by consumers.
The funding plan is projected to generate $510 million in its first year and $1.8 billion by the fifth year, Dubovi said.
Among the bridge preservation projects completed in 2012, according to Assistant District Executive for Construction Paul Koza, were the Seward Truss Bridge and Cramer Bridge No. 4 in East Wheatfield Township, Germany Bridges 1 and 2 in West Wheatfield Township and South Two Lick Bridge in Center Township
Assistant District Executive Brian Allen said future local projects in the preliminary engineering phase include work on Route 56 near United High School and work on Route 119 North in the Homer City area. Both projects are scheduled to begin construction in 2015 and are estimated to cost between $5 and $10 million each.
Indiana County maintenance forces will replace Iselin Bridge No. 2 in Young Township and Brewer Run Bridge in Canoe Township in 2014 and 2015, respectively, according to Allen.
Maintenance services engineer Michael Shanshala described fatality reduction and safety improvement efforts in the district.
Indiana County and Clarion County had the fewest fatalities in the district in 2012, at six apiece. Of the six Indiana County fatalities, four involved drivers who were either not wearing a seat belt, driving under the influence, or both.
Among safety improvements, Shanshala said, are projects to install rumble strips, apply end treatments to guide rails, replace open inlets with grates, ground-to-sky tree trimming to allow more sunlight to reach the road surface in winter, and enhanced pavement markings.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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