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PA plagued by obsolete bridges

Updated: Thursday, August 1 2013, 05:31 PM CDT
Reported by: Jesse Knutson

Pennsylvania has the worst-rated bridges in the country, with more than a quarter of those bridges considered structurally deficient. 

Starting this month, the state Department of Transportation may have to post weight limits on more than 1,000 bridges across the state in order to keep drivers safe because it doesn't have enough money to pay for repairs.

With more than 25,000 bridges in Pennsylvania, most drivers likely pass over one on a daily basis. They also likely see PennDOT crews working on bridges, which is necessary in a state where the average bridge is more than 50 years old.

The aging infrastructure needs to be kept up with repairs in order to function the way it has for decades, but because no infrastructure bill was passed during the legislative session, PennDOT does not have the funds to repair all the bridges that need to be fixed.

“Construction funds for a number of these bridges are just not there,” Mike Crochunis, district Press Officer for PennDOT, said.

Starting this month, weight limits will be posted on many bridges, limiting the size of cars and trucks that travel over them.

“Depending on the structure, that could mean the difference between a fuel truck getting from point A to point B, or even a local school bus,” Crochunis explained.

That means your child’s commute to school could be extended, and large trucks may have to take detours.

PennDOT has listed more than 1,000 bridges that may need to have weight restrictions added, or existing weight restrictions lowered to allow less weight than already allowed.

In Central Pennsylvania, there are more than 100 bridges -- including 46 in Lancaster, 24 in York, 29 in Perry, 11 in Cumberland, and 8 in Dauphin counties -- that need to be repaired.

Crochunis made it very clear that just because these bridges will have a weight limit doesn’t mean that they’re not safe.

“All of these bridges that are posted are safe, because they remain open. If a bridge is deemed not safe, we would close it to traffic altogether,” he said. 
PennDOT will continue to post weight limits until it receives funds to fix the bridges. The legislature will continue its talks on an infrastructure bill in the fall.
PA plagued by obsolete bridges


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