— Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny) today issued the following statement urging a practical approach to fixing Pennsylvania’s bridges with federal dollars:
“With the recent passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provided separate funding (Bridge Formula Program - BFP) specifically targeting the repair, replacement and rehabilitation of the nation’s bridges. Pennsylvania will receive $1.64 billion over the next five years. As with any federal spending bill, there are always strings attached, but two particular strings are good in the sense that it guides how the state should allocate these funds.
“Written into the BFP is a requirement that a minimum of 15% of the $1.64 billion be allocated for locally owned bridges across the state (think Pittsburgh) with no maximum, up to the full $1.64 billion. Assuming the money is used exclusively for local bridges, the federal government would require no matching money from the state. I repeat, if Pennsylvania allocates 100% of the $1.64 billion for local bridges, the taxpayers of Pennsylvania will not have to pay a penny to fix our local bridges when utilizing this unique federal program.
“Why is this important? Pennsylvania has 1,784 posted or weight-restricted bridges. Of those, 1,152 are rated in poor condition, according to data from the FHWA. The vast majority of these bridges are county and other locally owned, short-span bridges, typically less than 100 feet long. Using BFP funding, we could rapidly reduce the number of posted bridges across Pennsylvania that need repaired or replaced and assist our local governments by covering the full cost.
“Every time a bridge is weight restricted, it causes trucks and other vehicles – like school buses, farm equipment and ambulances – to take alternative routes. These detours are almost always longer in time and mileage, resulting in more damage to other roads, increased traffic, extended response times for first responders, and higher costs for drivers.
“To address these weight restricted bridges, we should use sensor technology to first prioritize the bridges needing prompt repair or replacement. Where feasible, we can conduct simple, proven load testing, then use the test results to determine if repair or replacement is actually necessary. Based on test results obtained in other states, these objective tests will show that many of the posted bridges don’t actually require restrictive weight limits because they are safer than originally presumed, thus freeing up millions of dollars to fix bridges in need of more serious repairs or replacement. In other words, we can more effectively allocate the $1.64 billion to achieve a state-of-good-repair faster and more efficiently.
“In summary, and where feasible, I propose we conduct load testing on our posted, locally owned bridges, rank them by objective test results, then repair or replace those most in need, thereby using the 100% federal reimbursement to drastically reduce the number of posted bridges in poor condition throughout the Commonwealth.”
The 46th Legislative District includes Collier and South Fayette townships and Bridgeville, Heidelberg, McDonald and Oakdale boroughs in Allegheny County. It also encompasses Canton, Cecil, Mt. Pleasant, Robinson and Smith townships and Burgettstown, McDonald and Midway boroughs in Washington County.
Representative Jason Ortitay
46th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tracy Polovick
RepOrtitay.com / Facebook.com/RepOrtitay