Pennsylvania has 5,543 structurally deficient bridges; 86 percent are owned by the state.
Now U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has unveiled a bipartisan proposal to increase funding by 10 percent for “off-system” bridges — bridges that are owned by a county or municipality and are not part of the federal highway system.
Casey said all bridges in the commonwealth average 54 years old, and only 10 percent of them receive federal funds.
“The network of bridges carries thousands of school buses, emergency vehicles, commuters, commercial vehicles every day,” Casey said. “The last thing any community needs is kind of a job killing dynamic that this can lead to.”
Pennsylvania received $74 million in the transportation bill for local and county bridges for fiscal year 2013 and this legislation will renew that.
“What we’re trying to do with this legislation is just increase that percentage allocation, what was 15 percent, by way of the amendment last year and move that to 25 percent for the country,” Casey said. “And that would of course, I think, disproportionately and very positively help Pennsylvania.”
If passed, the commonwealth would receive an additional $30 million in funding to go toward structurally deficient bridges, or bridges that have deterioration to one or more of their major components.
Casey said this is especially important for smaller towns and rural areas which have been hit hard by the economy.
“When you add a sometimes tough or struggling economy in a small town with an off-system bridge problem where the bridge to that community, or one of several bridges is compromised, that just adds to the economic problems of that community,” Casey said.
McKean County ranks number one in the state with more than 43 percent of its bridges considered structurally deficient.
Casey said the passing of this legislation could be one way Washington D.C. can come together in a bipartisan way.
“We did this once last year with the off-system bridges amendment, and I think it would be good for both parties to continue to come together to focus on something as basic as how we move goods and commerce and literally move our people,” Casey said.