2010-05-27 / Local & State

New PA Highway, Bridge Report Card Confirms Unmet Needs

Adds urgency for prompt action by General Assembly

A new report card emphasizes the urgent transportation needs that prompted Governor Edward G. Rendell to call a special session of the General Assembly, Transportation Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E., said Monday.

Pennsylvania’s bridges earned a “C” and its roads a “D-” in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2010 report card, “Keystone in Crisis,” which was released today.

“These findings by the civil engineering professionals confirm what the Governor has been saying,” Biehler said. “Despite the significant progress we’ve made attacking the backlog of bridge and pavement maintenance, our system is so large and so old that more work urgently needs to be done.”

Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of structurally deficient bridges, with 5,646, and has more than 7,000 miles of pavement in poor condition.

Addressing the special session on May 4, Governor Rendell urged the General Assembly to consider any ideas that would deal with the estimated $3.5 billion first-year gap between available resources and needs to keep the system in a state of good repair with a modest amount for added capacity.

With nearly 40,000 miles of state-maintained highways and 25,000 state-maintained bridges, Pennsylvania repeatedly has dealt with the transportation challenges. Additional funding was provided in the 1980s and 1990s, but steep inflation of construction costs – more than 80 percent over the past five years – and falling gas tax revenues have cut deeply into the state’s buying power.

In November 2006, the bipartisan Transportation Funding and Reform Commission estimated the annual transportation funding shortfall at $1.7 billion. Earlier this month, the Transportation Advisory Committee released its update and found the first-year gap had grown to $3.5 billion.

Without additional resources, PennDOT will lose ground on the number of structurally deficient bridges, see pavement conditions deteriorate and have no means to tackle much sought-after capacity projects that would ease congestion and improve mobility for many regions of Pennsylvania.

“The ASCE report adds more justification for tackling these issues as soon as possible,” Biehler said. “Waiting for some perceived better time will have tremendous consequences for people across the state and the economy. We simply must come to grips with these significant challenges.”

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