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PennDOT has authorized DOT workers to add or increase weight restrictions to about 1,000 structurally deficient (SD) bridges statewide to ensure bridge safety and preserve its aging bridge system.
PennDOT Secretary Schoch said the state must take this step because of legislative inaction this past June on transportation funding, leaving the department's future resources in question.
As PennDOT has regulatory oversight over all bridges in the state, Schoch's authorization applies weight restrictions to 530 state-owned and about 470 locally owned bridges. In an effort to maintain safety for all motorists, a change in PennDOT's weight-restriction criteria must be implemented for all bridges, regardless of owner. Pennsylvania currently has 567 state bridges
and 1,685 local bridges posted with weight restrictions.
How bad is the problem? Pennsylvania currently leads the nation in the number of SD bridges with 4,479. Pennsylvania ranks 35th in the nation with the percent of SD bridges that are posted or closed – after these new restrictions are put in place, Pennsylvania will rank 27th in the nation.
"In the past we've been able to hold off on restricting bridges, but now we have to be more conservative," Schoch said. "We have some of the oldest bridges in the nation and many of them need major repairs."
Even if the legislature passes a transportation funding plan in the fall, the earliest the weight restrictions could be removed would be when their repairs can be programmed for funding within two years. If conditions warrant, the restrictions could remain in place until repairs are made.
PennDOT will begin posting bridges with weight limits as soon as Aug. 29. Notifications to school-bus operators, emergency-service providers and other local officials have already begun. Posting on local bridges will take place at a later date after PennDOT discusses these changes with local bridge owners.
To view the bridges with new or lowered weight restrictions or to learn more about bridge weight restrictions and PennDOT's bridge-inspection program, visit the PennDOT homepage
Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation and click on "Bridge Information."