PA bridges repair on hold; Worst in the nation
August 28, 2013 —
HARRISBURG, PA — Barry J. Schoch, the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot), announced on August 23 that the department will implement or expand weight restrictions to about 1,000 structurally deficient bridges statewide to ensure bridge safety and preserve the aging bridge system.
A press release from the department said, “PennDOT must take this step because of legislative inaction this past June on transportation funding, leaving the department’s future resources in question. Reducing the weight traveling on these bridges will slow down their deterioration and preserve safety while funding for their repairs remains uncertain.”
There are some 4,479 “structurally deficient bridges” in Pennsylvania, making the Keystone State number one in the nation for the number of bridges needing repair.
In Wayne County there are a total of 253 bridges, and 69 are structurally deficient; in Pike, there are 160, and 44 need work. At the moment, however, there is no funding available through either the state or federal governments to pay for repairs.
Not that some politicians haven’t been trying. At the state level, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a transportation bill before the general assembly departed for its summer break. Senate Bill One would have provided $2.5 billion in transportation funding.
The bill would have raised the funds by gradually doing away with the cap on the tax paid by gasoline wholesalers. Currently, they can only be taxed on a price of $1.25 per gallon. If the cap were removed, the tax would increase from about 19 cents to about 48 cents per gallon.
The PA House of Representatives, however, failed to come to an agreement about the bill. Representative Mike Hanna blamed House Republicans for failing to negotiate with their Democratic counterparts. He said, “In the end no package as important as this transportation package can be passed without both sides of the aisle, and it’s something that has to be done.”
Several state lawmakers of both parties have said that a transportation bill will be a priority when they return to Harrisburg on September 23. But some analysts are skeptical of a bill being passed, because it is unofficially linked to the privatization of the state liquor store system, and that is being aggressively opposed by the union that represents employees of the state store system and Democrats.