Increased Weight Restrictions Coming to about 1,000 Bridges
August 23, 2013
Harrisburg- PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch authorized his department to add or
increase weight restrictions to about 1,000 structurally deficient (SD) bridges
statewide to ensure bridge safety and preserve our aging bridge system
PennDOT must take this step because of legislative inaction this past June
on transportation funding, and reducing the weight traveling on these bridges
will slow down their deterioration and preserve safety while funding for their
repairs remains uncertain. To this point, the department has waited longer to
place weight restrictions on bridges because of anticipated funding that
allowed bridge repairs to be scheduled.
“For months I’ve been explaining to Pennsylvanians and to lawmakers
that there are very real consequences to not enacting a transportation funding
plan,” Schoch said. “Without additional revenues anticipated in the future, I
have to make the safe and responsible decision to reduce how much weight is
crossing these deteriorating bridges.”
As PennDOT has regulatory oversight over all bridges in the state,
Schoch’s authorization applies weight restrictions to 530 state-owned and about
470 locally owned bridges. In an effort to maintain safety for all motorists, a
change in PennDOT’s weight-restriction criteria must be implemented for all
bridges, regardless of owner. Pennsylvania currently has 567 state bridges and
1,685 local bridges posted with weight restrictions.
Senator Jim Brewster said if
state lawmakers who oppose increased funding for roads, bridges, and mass
transit are waiting for a crisis – it’s here.
Senator Brewster, who voted for Senate Bill 1 in June which would
eventually provide an additional $2.5 billion a year in transportation funding,
says if a bridge falls down and people are injured or killed, those state
lawmakers who want to place the blame on someone should look in the mirror.
Those who testified at the Senate
Transportation Committee public hearings in Altoona and Allegheny County, which
included business owners, construction company executives, representatives of
chambers of commerce, and transportation planners, warned the senators that
failing to pass a transportation funding bill would endanger public safety,
cause economic harm including the loss of jobs, and jeopardize the state’s
ability to attract new business and industry to Pennsylvania and keep existing
Senate Bill 1, which passed on a vote of 45-5, is gathering dust in the
House of Representatives where some Republican legislators vow they won’t vote
for the measure, calling it nothing more than a tax increase and calling mass
transit funding “welfare” for bus riders.
Senator Brewster says other states have experienced disasters involving
falling bridges and if the state doesn’t do something soon, state lawmakers are
putting Pennsylvania drivers’ safety at risk.
The McKeesport Democrat says passing a transportation funding bill
should be the top priority when the legislature returns to session in
September. Even if the legislature passes a transportation funding plan in the
fall, the earliest the weight restrictions could be removed would be when their
repairs can be programmed for funding within two years. If conditions warrant,
the restrictions could remain in place until repairs are made.
PennDOT will begin posting bridges with weight limits as soon as Aug.
29. Notifications to school-bus operators, emergency-service providers and
other local officials will begin today. Posting on local bridges will take
place at a later date after PennDOT discusses these changes with local bridge