HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is working to reassure the safety and condition of bridges across the commonwealth.
After the recent bridge collapse in Pittsburgh, questions have been asked regarding inspections, conditions, and the state of bridges in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has the third-highest number of bridges in the country, largely due to its complex geography consisting of many rivers, creeks, streams and mountainous terrain.
PennDOT has inspection oversight of more than 25,400 state-owned bridges, and locally-owned bridges over 20 feet in length.
The average age of those bridges is over 50 years old. Many are in “poor condition.”
“Because of the age of our network and the size of our network, 250 of our state-maintained bridges move into that particular category every year. So, we must preserve, repair and replace at a greater rate each year to continue our trend,” said PennDOT Acting Executive Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula.
With what officials call a roughly $8 billion annual funding gap, PennDOT is looking for ways to finance projects and focus only on infrastructure that needs improvement the most.
According to Batula, they’ve been successful in decreasing the number of bridges designated to be in poor condition.
“In 2008, there were over 6,000 state-owned bridges that were in poor condition in Pennsylvania. We’ve made tremendous progress in reducing that number, so today that number is just over 2,400 bridges with the state-owned system,” said Batula.
Over the next five years, the commonwealth will receive $1.6 billion from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to fix more than 3,000 bridges across the commonwealth.
“We’re thankful that the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included new funding especially for bridges, and that’s including funds for off-system bridges as well. So over five years, we’re going to be receiving $1.6 billion in new federal funds through the new bridge funding system,” said Batula.
But with an annual funding gap of $8 billion, many are asking if $1.6 billion will be enough for PennDOT to repair the 250 bridges that need attention annually.