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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 yesterday.

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 businesses here.

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 owners.
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