PennDOT begins posting bridge weight limits in light of failure of transportation funding

By Robbie Webber
In late June, as the Pennsylvania legislature debated whether or not to raise the wholesale gas tax, PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch warned that he would likely have to place weight restrictions on bridges across the state in order to extend their useful life if additional funding was not allocated. Some may have thought this was just a bargaining point, but when the legislature adjourned without increasing transportation funding, Schoch began drawing up a list of bridges that would have restrictions.
Now 1,000 bridges across the state have been posted with reduced weight limits. The Secretary emphasizes that the bridges are not unsafe, but that without adequate maintenance funding or knowledge of when they would be able to be rebuilt, the restrictions would slow deterioration.
Vehicles ranging from school buses, ambulances, agricultural equipment, delivery trucks, and construction equipment will be affected, however Schoch said that he did take school routes and other factors into account when deciding which bridges would be restricted. However, emergency vehicle response times, longer school bus rides, additional congestion on other roads, and higher costs for pick-up and delivery by heavy trucks could result.
It is also possible that more bridges might be restricted later this year. The legislature will be back in session this fall, but a compromise may be difficult to reach. Regardless of legislative action, weight restrictions are expected to remain in place until repairs can be completed.
Robbie Webber is a Senior Associate at SSTI.