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Pennsylvania’s Roads and Bridges Receive Failing Grades

 

A report card issued in June by the Central Pennsylvania section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges low marks.

The report, which is a year-long assessment, evaluated Pennsylvania’s transportation system as well as other major statewide infrastructure.

ASCE awarded the Commonwealth’s road network the lowest grade – a D-minus – for 44 percent of the state’s roads being in fair or poor condition.

According to the report, without new investment, the state’s motorists would continue to waste an average of 182 hours and 86 gallons of fuel in traffic congestion. The report estimates the cost to drivers in lost time and wasted fuel amounts to $3.7 billion per year.

Pennsylvania’s bridges didn’t fare much better, earning a grade in the report of D-plus.

Of the state’s 22,000 bridges, 23 percent are rated structurally-deficient – the worst percentage in the nation.

Bridge closures and weight limitations have forced lengthy, time consuming and costly detours for both travelers and commercial traffic.

Last fall, the state legislature passed and Governor Tom Corbett signed into law Act 89, which increases transportation investment by $2.3 billion annually.

State roads and bridges alone will see an additional $600 million in 2014, with an additional $1.3 billion by year five of the law. Local roads and bridges will received an added investment of $37 million in 2014, and $237 million by year five. The state plans more than 700 state and local bridge projects this year and will lift weight restrictions for more than 100.

AAA East Central Director of Legislative Affairs Theresa Podguski agreed with the report card’s accuracy.

“Deficient road conditions are a factor in the majority of fatal traffic accidents, and safety was a primary reason that AAA strongly supported additional transportation funding investment,” Podguski said. “We anticipate a better report card next year.”

Drivers of Heavy Vehicles Advised of Highway, Bridge Responsibilities

PennDOT today advised drivers of vehicles weighing more than 3 tons – the lowest weight restriction a driver will encounter on state roads – that they are responsible for ensuring they have proper permits for traveling on weight-restricted roads or bridges in the state.

The department posts weight restrictions on bridges and roadways to preserve their condition, and traffic above the posted weight limit increases wear and tear on these assets. Roads and bridges, even along the same route, will often have different weight limits so motorists must ensure they are within the legal limit of roadways and bridges along their desired route.

“It’s very important that drivers obey posted weight limits not only because it’s the law, but because it’s a matter of safety,” PennDOT District 10 Executive Joseph Dubovi said. “Heavy vehicles can damage posted roadways, but overweight vehicles on bridges can severely damage the structure and, if heavy enough, could cause a collapse.”

“These assets are posted with weight limits for a reason – these are the maximum loads they can safely carry.”

As weight restrictions vary by roadway and bridge location, drivers of vehicles 3 tons and heavier should contact PennDOT to review what permits may be needed along their desired route.

Vehicles that exceed the posted weight must obtain a permit to travel over that posted road or bridge. Operators can find the application, Form M-4902, at www.dot.state.pa.us under “Forms, Publications & Maps.”

In addition to securing a permit to transport loads over the posted limit on roadways, haulers will enter into an agreement with the department to repair any damage the user causes to the roadway.

In Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Indiana and Jefferson counties there are 49 posted bridges and 1,801 miles of posted roads.