Pennsylvania still ranks No. 1 in the nation for bad bridges
If you are a driver in a metropolitan area in the United States, your chances of driving across a structurally deficient bridge are greater than your encountering a McDonald's restaurant.
A report issued Wednesday by Transportation for America, a Washington D.C.-based coalition advocating transportation reform, found one in nine American bridges are structurally deficient, meaning that they show significant signs of deterioration to major components of the bridge.
To put an image to that number, wrote the report's author Stephen Lee Davis, there are more deficient bridges in the 102 largest metropolitan areas than there are McDonald's in the country - 18,239 versus 14,000.
"Worldwide, McDonald's serves a staggering 64 million people a day," Davis wrote. "But here in America, 210 million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges in just these 102 regions."
According to the report, which drew from the Federal Highway Administration's 2010 National Bridge Inventory, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area is a main offender.
In the population category of 500,000 to 1 million, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre ranked third with 26.1 percent of its bridges qualifying as structurally deficient. Each day, an average of 1,157,189 motorists cross these 239 deficient bridges, meaning that 13 drivers are on a deficient bridge every second.
"It's as bad a problem here as it is in the rest of the state and it all comes down to a matter of funding," said Steve Pitoniak, transportation planning manager for Lackawanna County. "Statewide, we only have a fifth of what we need to bring all of the structurally deficient bridges up to standards within the next couple years."
Despite the state Department of Transportation's Accelerated Bridge Program in 2008 and the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's $1.37 billion in state stimulus funding, Pennsylvania still ranks No. 1 in the nation for its percentage of structurally deficient bridges overall.
In August, Gov. Tom Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission released a report that outlines the dire needs of the state's transportation system, in particular its deteriorating bridges.
"Since the (Accelerated Bridge Program) has come to a close, we find that the number of bridges becoming structurally deficient per year still outpaces the number of bridges repaired," the commission reported.
According to the TFAC, an additional $3.5 billion is required annually to repair and maintain the state's roads, bridges and transit systems. For bridges alone, an additional $370 million was needed for repairs in 2010. Without significant changes, this number will become $1.29 billion by 2020.
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