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Pennsylvania bridges get weight restrictions

September 20, 2013
bridges get weight limits

Liberty Bridge will also have weight limits. Image by Joseph Novak.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has applied weight restrictions on about 1,000 structurally deficient bridges throughout the state. It took this step after the state legislature failed to provide it funding for repairs.

With a total of 4,479 structurally deficient bridges, Pennsylvania has the highest number of such bridges in the country. On average, bridges in the state are over 50 years old. “Structurally deficient” doesn’t mean a bridge is necessarily unsafe, though – being classified this way can means that the bridge may be able to carry loads of a lesser weight.

Weight restrictions will increase costs

bridges tough for tractor trailers

A tractor-trailer may not be able to access many bridges. Image by Greg Goebel.

An average loaded tractor-trailer weighs 40 tons. With weight limits being reduced by 10-20%, tractor-trailers may have to make detours now, which will increase costs. “Our tractor-trailers such as milk trucks, food trucks, they typically get about six miles to the gallon,” says Jennifer Reed-Harry, assistant vice president , PennAg Industries Association. “So when you’re talking about a detour that may have to go an additional 30 miles out around the loop to get to a farm or to get to a food mill, it’s an additional cost to the end consumer, ultimately.”

Emergency services will be affected, too. An average fire truck weighs 19-30 tons. “If you happen to be waiting for a fire truck … and we post a bridge and you’re at the other side of that bridge, that’s going to be a longer response time,” says PennDOT Secretary Barry Scoch.

Weight restrictions a temporary solution

How long will this measure delay the inevitable? “Based on past experiences, [a weight restriction] will increase the lifespan of the bridge at least five to 10 years,” says PennDOT District 6 Executive Lester Toaso.

PennDOT has notified emergency service providers, school bus operators, and other local officials of the changes. Workers have begun posting signs on the new weight limits on bridges, a process that will continue over the next four to five months.

Even if the legislature makes funds available for bridges to be repaired from this year, it will be two years before the repairs can be completed on all the structurally deficient bridges and the weight limits removed.

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Category: Infrastructure

About the Author ()

A graduate in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, India, Nupur also has an MBA from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University. Nupur is currently trying to be as savvy a cook as she is with a book. She likes watching plays and sunsets. Nupur first lived in Kolkata and then for a decade in Delhi, still her favorite city.

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