Pennsylvania has the fifth largest state-maintained road system in the nation, which includes 32,000 bridges and 120,000 miles of road. Unfortunately, over the years our transportation infrastructure has slowly fallen into disrepair and projects are not proceeding as quickly as we would like. Much of this has been caused by several years of a depressed economy that led to tight transportation budgets, coupled with rising construction costs and a decrease in revenue from the gas tax, mostly due to people driving more fuel efficient vehicles.
As you can imagine, it is a time consuming and costly endeavor to maintain such infrastructure. Due to the lack of progress in making repairs or replacing certain structures, it was recently announced by PennDOT that 1,000 bridges across the state would need to be deemed structurally deficient with new or additional weight restrictions being placed on them.
I realize the term "structurally deficient" raises safety concerns for most individuals; however, as PennDOT has explained, the bridges being posted are still safe for motorists. They are posting the weight restrictions on the bridges in order to extend the longevity of the bridges and preserve safety.
In Lehigh and Northampton counties, 13 bridges are scheduled to be posted with weight restrictions and one bridge (Kromer Road over PA 33 in Plainfield Township, Northampton County) will be closed. These postings should not significantly impact the normal flow of commuter traffic on a daily basis.
The posting of these bridges, however, does bring up the larger issue of funding needed to repair or replace many bridges and sections of roadway. The General Assembly has examined a few plans put forth by the governor, Senate and House; however, we still lack consensus on any one comprehensive plan. The stumbling block is the large amount of funding needed to "do it all," and where that money will come from.
As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I know we will be looking at solutions this fall that will likely be less comprehensive and more targeted to the critical needs of our transportation system with smaller price tags and more doable ways to address funding.
Tending to our transportation system is a priority, as it affects the safety of those using our roads and bridges, as well as impacts our economy through the ability to efficiently transport goods and deliver services. I can assure you this will be at the top of agenda as we reconvene for the fall legislative session.
For more information, including a list of bridges that area scheduled to receive new weight restrictions in Lehigh and Northampton counties, visit my website at www.JulieHarhart.com and click on the banner in the middle of the page titled "New Weight Restrictions Being Placed on Regional Bridges."