U.S. Sen. Bob Casey on Thursday said Pennsylvania is ranked No. 1 in something no state wants to be — deficient bridges.
Casey, D-Scranton, held a teleconference from Washington to announce he will introduce a bill to increase funding for bridges owned by counties or municipalities in Pennsylvania by $30 million. The state received $74 million last year for bridge repairs.
The move comes as Pennsylvania continues to struggle to upgrade its bridges. Casey’s bipartisan bill will be introduced with U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri.
Casey said Pennsylvania has 5,543 deficient bridges — nearly 25 percent of all spans in the state — and he said they are located in small towns and rural areas. This translates to more than 19 million daily trips taken over structurally deficient bridges, according to data provided by Casey’s office.
According to the data, there are 122 deficient municipal or county-owned bridges in Luzerne County, 82 in Lackawanna County, 42 in Wyoming County, 69 in Lycoming County and 118 in Monroe County.
“Investing in our state’s crumbling bridges will create jobs and ensure our counties and municipalities have safe and reliable transportation systems,” Casey said. “This commonsense, bipartisan approach to investing in our infrastructure has a proven track record of success and I’m pushing for Congress to support this effort.”
Casey said the targeted bridges comprise a segment of the state’s transportation system that is “particularly compromised.” He said that in a still-struggling economy, deficient bridges add to the economic woes of many towns.
“The reason why Pennsylvania would receive so many dollars is because we have so many deficient bridges,” he said. “These bridges are relied upon for many people and especially for emergency vehicles like fire trucks, ambulances and police vehicles. That can result in tragedies we don’t even want to contemplate.”
Casey said residents of rural areas and small towns can sometimes feel removed from Washington and Congress and that disconnect can make them feel their issues are not noticed and not addressed.
“This is one way Washington can come together in bipartisan way,” he said. “We can focus on something as basic as how we move goods, commerce and people in small towns across the Commonwealth and the country.”
Casey said the $74 million Pennsylvania received for these bridges last year was more than any other state outside of California.
According to information provided by Casey’s office:
• Off-system bridges are not on the federal-aid highway system. Instead, they are found on public roads that are owned and operated by local governments.
• There are more than 590,000 bridges in the U.S. and more than 50 percent are off-system.
• More than one out of every four off-system bridges across the country are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Of those, 35 percent are functionally obsolete
• In three counties — McKean, Schuylkill, and Potter — more than 40 percent of the bridges are structurally deficient.
Casey said the state Senate recently passed a bill that would significantly increase transportation funding for the state, but the state House has not yet taken action. As a result the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently put weight restrictions on a significant number of bridges.