Pattye Benson

Community Matters


Pennsylvania is Still #1 in the Country . . . Worst Bridges in America!

Based on a new Transportation of America report, Pennsylvanians had better face it; we need all the luck we can get. Cross your fingers, carry a rabbit’s foot, rub a lucky penny . . . keep your lucky charm handy the next time you cross a bridge in the Commonwealth.

With 25,000 state-owned bridges, Pennsylvania is on the list in third place for the largest number of bridges in the nation. However, according to the new report, Pennsylvania leads the nation in largest percentage of structurally deficient bridges. The bridge deficiency number should not come as a shock to state residents, as Pennsylvania has led the nation in troubled bridges every year since 2007. Leading the nation for ‘worst bridges in America’ is a title I would rather Pennsylvania not claim! The average age of bridges on the state system is 50 years old and approximately 6,000 are structurally deficient.

What exactly does ‘structurally deficient bridge’ mean? According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation website, “A structurally deficient bridge is safe, but in need of costly repairs or replacement to bring it to current standards.”

Transportation for America considers a bridge “structurally deficient” if at least one of three components – the deck, substructure, or superstructure – has been rated “poor” by inspectors. The deck is the roadway surface of a bridge, while the superstructure refers to beams and other components that support the deck. The substructure includes piers, abutments and other parts of a bridge’s foundation.

What remains to be seen is where the state will get the necessary funding to fix its bridges and roads. One option discussed is to sell the states 620 liquor stores and use the revenue for bridge and road projects. However, as we know, the topic of ‘selling’ state stores is still only in the talking stage. Complicating the transportation-funding question is the fact that the federal stimulus funds are drying up.

Other than potential revenue from the sale of state liquor stores, what are some other creative funding sources? With Pennsylvania suffering from budget gaps, the problem is not likely to be solved in the near future.

How is Pennsylvania going to repair its aging infrastructure; how will the state pay for repair of its bad roads and needy bridges?

And do I dare suggest the ‘T’ word . . . Tolling?

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