Bridge weight restrictions 'will happen' in Pennsylvania, official says

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 7/9/2013

Sometime before year’s end, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to place weight restrictions or increase existing restrictions on as many as 1,100 bridges. The announcement comes with the state General Assembly in recess but holding the fate of a comprehensive transportation funding bill in its hands.

PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt says restricting bridges is a matter of safety.

“The PennDOT secretary has been saying for some time that if the Legislature doesn’t act on implementing a long-term transportation plan that we need to look at bridges that have reached a certain point with their factors of safety,” Waters Trasatt told “Land Line Now.”

Although she didn’t cite the recent Interstate 5 bridge collapse in Washington state directly, Waters-Trasatt says restricting bridge weights is a matter of safety as Pennsylvania’s bridge inventory continues to age without a long-term fix.

“If they continue to see increased, higher loads, their deterioration is going to increase,” she said. “They reach a certain point, and they just keep getting worse at a much faster rate.”

PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch tipped the agency’s hand about the pending restrictions during the International Bridge Conference in early June in Pittsburgh. According to reports from the conference, Schoch told the delegation that the limits will happen if state lawmakers do not approve a governor-backed transportation funding plan.

The Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee advanced the Senate-approved bill, SB1, with changes to the full chamber in late June, but the House broke for summer recess a short time later. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to session Sept. 23.

Talk of bridge restrictions continues.

“This will happen this year,” Waters-Trasatt said. “We’re not positive what number we’ll actually see weight restrictions or existing restrictions on yet. But this is a reality that without knowing that we’re going to have the resources to be able to address these needs, we need to do the safe and responsible thing and put in all these restrictions and increase safety for the traveling public.”

PennDOT lists its at-risk bridges alphabetically by county. Click here to view the directory and current status.

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