February 29, 2016
Of the more than 20,000 bridges across the state of Pennsylvania, more than a fifth are structurally deficient, a recent report from a national transportation organization says.
The annual study from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), released in February, found that 4,783 of the state's bridges [21 percent] have at least one key bridge element that is considered by inspectors to be in poor or worse condition.
The top 15 most travelled structurally deficient bridges were all in Philadelphia County.
The total means Pennsylvania has the second most structurally deficient bridges in the country, behind Iowa, which has 5,025, the report says.
According to the ARTBA, many of these bridges may not be "imminently unsafe," however, the goal of the report is to educate policymakers about bridges that need repair.
Both the sheer number of compromised bridges and the state's ranking in the report are improvements.
In the previous two years, Pennsylvania was worst in the country and last year there were 5,050 structurally deficient bridges.
The study notes since 2004, more than 1,800 bridges in the state have undergone major reconstruction.
The Meadville Tribune reports state lawmakers who pushed for an increased gas tax in 2013 are growing concerned that most of the revenue from the tax is being diverted from road and bridge work to state police.
Those proponents are pushing to reverse that trend, the newspaper reports. Either way, state funding alone won't fix the problem in Pennsylvania, according to Dr. Alison Premo Black, ARTBA’s chief economist.
Black said a recent $305 billion federal transportation bill, which includes an increase in bridge funding, would help a little, but not enough.
“It’s going to take major new investments by all levels of government to move toward eliminating the huge backlog of bridge work in the United States," she said.