The Senate is expected to vote this week on a budget bill that could rehabilitate aging bridges across Pennsylvania and around the country.
Pennsylvania leads the nation with 5,543 structurally deficient bridges, 86 percent of which are state-owned.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) says the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill contains several provisions to directly address bridge repairs and broader transportation priorities that are vital to the commonwealth.
The Senate version of THUD totals $54 billion and includes a new $500 million bridge renovation program. The House version is $44.1 billion: $7.7 billion less than last year’s level and $4.4 billion lower than the sequestration amount, and it does not include the half billion for bridge rehabilitation.
According to Casey, grants to fix bridges would be awarded on a competitive basis.
He said the bipartisan spending measure has the potential to “create jobs, spur economic growth while maintaining vital infrastructure.”
Although Casey said there is bipartisan support for the Senate bill, he admitted there aren’t 60 votes yet to avoid a filibuster.
“(There’s) a reasonably good chance we will,” he said.
Casey called chances of negotiating a compromise with the House “difficult.”
“When people don’t have a basic sense of safety crossing bridges, when you have a transportation system that’s badly in need of investment, I don’t think Republicans hear anything different (from constituents) than I hear," he said.
Allegheny County has 296 structurally deficient and 333 functionally obsolete spans, including the Fort Pitt, Portal and Fort Duquesne bridges. McKean County has the worst ratio of deficient bridges: 43.4 percent.
Other southwestern Pennsylvania counties and their percentage of structurally deficient bridges include:
- Lawrence County: 37.1 percent
- Fayette County: 33.6 percent
- Washington County: 31.9 percent
- Butler and Indiana counties: 31.4 percent
- Greene County: 31.3 percent
- Armstrong County: 27.8 percent
- Westmoreland County: 25.2 percent
- Somerset County: 24.2 percent