PennDOT to pay team of companies for bridge repairs under single contract
Pennsylvania has more than its fair share of structurally deficient bridges — a higher percentage than any other state.
What it doesn't have is the money to fix all of them, which is why public-private partnerships are coming into play.
PennDOT is betting on a team of private companies to pay the upfront cost of replacing at least 500 structurally deficient, state-owned bridges, a first-of-its kind effort for the agency in that the large amount of work will be awarded in one contract to save time and money.
“This will be a great opportunity, and we wouldn't have been able to do as many if it weren't for the new transportation funding law,” PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said.
The Rapid Bridge Replacement Project, which will “bundle” the bridge work, is expected to save money because the bridges are relatively small and can be similarly designed, allowing one team of companies that likely will subcontract some work to complete the work, the agency said. A single contract eliminates the need to solicit separate bids for design, construction and other work, Waters-Trasatt said.
PennDOT is able to run Rapid Bridge Replacement Program because of a public-private partnership law that Gov. Tom Corbett signed in 2012 and the $2.3 billion transportation funding law passed in November. The bill provides more money for transportation projects.
Of 614 state-owned bridges statewide that are eligible for the bridge replacement program, 60 are in Allegheny County, which has the most of any county on the list. There are 24 eligible bridges in Westmoreland County, 16 in Beaver County, 13 in Butler County and 27 in Washington County.
“There have to be better ways of doing business than what we've been doing in the past to get the bridge problem under control,” said Lisa Cessna, executive director of Washington County's planning commission.
Five teams of companies submitted qualifications to do the work. PennDOT will pick the team and finalize the list of winning bridges. Work must be completed within five years.
PennDOT will own the bridges and perform basic maintenance, such as snow removal, but the team will be responsible for significant maintenance for up to 35 years, Waters-Trasatt said.
The team must secure funding, and it will be paid when certain work is completed, Waters-Trasatt said.
PennDOT expects the work to start in 2015. It does not have an estimate yet of costs.
Typically, if a project's risk is high, a company expects to make more profit, said Les Snyder, president and chief executive officer of Downtown-based Infrastructure and Industrial Constructors USA. With 500 bridges being built by one team of companies in five years, the companies would expect their profit to be higher, Snyder said.
Snyder's company and one of its subsidiaries are part of a team called Commonwealth Bridge Partners that submitted qualifications to PennDOT.
One reason Snyder's firm was drawn to the project was the opportunity to participate in a public-private partnership unprecedented in Pennsylvania because of its scope, Snyder said.
“It's a new process in the commonwealth,” he said.
Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs said it would be “inappropriate” to comment because discussions with PennDOT about the program continue.
A pilot public-private partnership worked in Washington County, Cessna said. PennDOT paid to repair county-owned bridges through a bundling contract, but the counties have to maintain the roads.
“There would have been no way, even in the next 10 years, that we would have been able to accomplish getting this many bridges off the structurally deficient list,” said Cessna, who estimated the work to fix 17 bridges would have been in the millions.
Public-private partnerships were virtually unheard of 20 years ago, but have grown as the source of funding for transportation projects — state and federal gas taxes — has been flat, said Martin Pietrucha, a professor of civil engineering at Penn State and director of the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute.
“And in as much as the revenue basically has been staying flat while expenses have been going up, there's been a lot of deferred maintenance,” he said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Customers rarely utilize right to cancel a contract
- Under bill, taxes could rise for workers in Pa.’s distressed cities — except Pittsburgh
- Pennsylvania school performance scores stuck in limbo
- Attorneys want ‘Kids for Cash’ figure’s windfall frozen
- Drug-tracking bill headed to Pa. governor’s desk
- Probation board member in Pa. porn email scandal retires
- State legislator exchanges gunshots with would-be robber near Capitol
- Pennsylvania’s gun-check system upgrade well-received
- Penn State student hurt in laboratory explosion