Fayette, Westmoreland bridges get new/lower weight restrictions
By Karl Polacek
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, 6:52 p.m.
PennDOT has announced new or lower weight restrictions on bridges in Fayette and Westmoreland counties, but these may not affect traffic in most locations.
Joseph Szczur, district executive for PennDOT in the region, said the restrictions have been announced because PennDOT does not have a funding stream to do work on the structures and the restrictions are being put in place to prevent further deterioration and to make sure the structures are safe.
He added that the problems have been made worse because of California emissions standards and a push for better mileage by the federal government.
“The problem is that people are driving the same number of miles or more miles, but are getting more miles per gallon,” Szczur said. “It is the perfect storm (that detracts from funding for) the transportation system at a time when we need more revenue.”
He said the Corbett administration has tried to create an annual, sustained funding stream. The Legislature has failed to enact a tax that was to be placed on wholesale gasoline distributors. Over the years, other sources of funding have been made available. The Rendell administration had instituted a $375 million appropriation that corrected problems on a few thousand bridges. Four years ago, Pennsylvania got $1 billion in federal funds, which took care of 29 roadway and bridge projects.
Those were one-time infusions of funding, however, and many bridges have reached or exceeded their normal life spans of 50 years.
“(You) can't manage transportation needs like that,” he said. “We have shown that annually, that $1.5 billion to $2 billion is necessary to maintain the system, as is.”
According to Valerie Petersen, District 12 spokesperson in Uniontown, restrictions have been placed on the following bridges in Fayette County:
• Route 1050 (Englishman Hill Road), south of Route 982, over Mountz Creek in Bullskin Township — 33 tons, except combinations of 40 tons. The former weight limit was 34 tons, except combinations of 40 tons.
• Route 1001 (Kooser Road), north of Fairmont, over Mill Run, in Springfield Township — 24 tons, except combinations of 32 tons. The former weight limit was 25 tons, except combinations of 35 tons.
• Route 1043 (Bitner Road), east of Route 51, over Redstone Creek, in North Union and Franklin townships — 34 tons, except combinations of 40 tons. There was no previous weight restriction.
• Route 1055 (Dunbar Ohiopyle Road), near Betty Knox Road, over Tucker Run, in Dunbar Township — 32 tons, except combinations of 38 tons. The former weight limit was 36 tons, except combinations of 40 tons.
• Route 1058 (County Line Road), over Indian Creek, near Fayette and Westmoreland County line, in Saltlick Township — 35 tons, except combinations of 40 tons. There was no previous weight restriction.
Scott Keefer, a Bullskin Township supervisor, said Englishman Hill Road is used by empty trucks going to a stone quarry. However, he said those trucks use a different route, Swink Hill, upon leaving the quarry.
Ross Miner, a Springfield Township supervisor, said there is no major truck traffic on Route 1001 over Mill Run.
“The only thing that goes over that bridge is school buses, and there is another way around,” Miner said.
There is one local bridge in Westmoreland County:
— Route 2021 (Norvelt Road), northwest of Route 981 over Sewickley Creek in Mt. Pleasant Township — 35 tons except combinations of 40 tons. There was no previous weight restriction.
Mt. Pleasant Township Supervisor Frank Puskar said most heavy truck traffic that does go over the bridge would find the restrictions a problem, but he did not know if there were any.
Several officials said the restrictions on the bridges are no problem for school buses because they do not come up to the restricted weights.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3538.
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