Pennsylvania's Dangerous Bridges

By PW Staff
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 16, 2010

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New York Times columnist Bob Herbert uses Pennsylvania to point out that the nation's infrastructure -- especially bridges -- is going to hell. "We’re so far behind in some areas that Governor Rendell has said that getting our infrastructure act together can feel like “sledding uphill.” “When I took over as governor,” he said, “I was told that Pennsylvania led the nation in the number of structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges. We had more than 5,600 of them. So I put a ton of money into bridge repair. We more than tripled the amount in the capital budget, from $200 million a year to $700 million a year. And I got a special appropriation from the Legislature to do $200 million a year extra for the next four years.” The result? “Well, the good news is that we repaired a lot of bridges,” said Mr. Rendell. “The bad news is that by the end of my sixth year, the end of 2008, the number of deficient or structurally obsolete bridges had gone from 5,600 to more than 6,000. “The reason is that we lead the nation in bridges 75 years or older, and the recommended lifespan for a bridge is 40 years. So every time we fixed two, three would bump onto the list.” He said he hopes that by the end of this year the list will be pared to 4,300 bridges, which he described as “still way too high.” It’s easy, especially in tough economic times, to push aside infrastructure initiatives, including basic maintenance and repair, in favor of issues that seem more pressing or more appealing. But this misses the point that infrastructure spending that is thoughtful and wise is an investment, a crucial investment in the nation’s future — and it’s a world-class source of high-value jobs."

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