The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 13, 2013

Casey bill dedicates cash for municipal, county bridge repairs

Valley bridges among best kept in state

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

SUNBURY —  Counties and municipalities in Pennsylvania could see a larger chunk of federal funding — more than $100 million — to fix bridges under a bipartisan proposal, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., announced Thursday.

The senator is aiming to chip away at the Keystone State’s No. 1. rank in structurally deficient bridges in the nation.

That doesn’t mean Pennsylvania would see more federal highway money — just that more of the federal money it does get would have to go to fix bridges.

The proposal, co-sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., would increase from 15 percent to 25 percent — about $30 million more — the amount of federal highway funds the state must give to governing bodies for so-called off-system bridges, which get no federal funds for maintenance. Off-system bridges typically are maintained by county or municipal governments.

These off-system bridges are chronically underfunded, Casey said. Pennsylvania, however, would handle allocating the money.

Casey and Blunt made a similar push in last year’s transportation bill and got state, counties and municipalities about $74 million in federal money for these bridges in fiscal year 2013, according to Casey’s office.

This wouldn’t change how much Pennsylvania gets in federal highway dollars, it just gets the counties and municipalities “a larger piece of the pie,” the senator said.

Pennsylvania most recently received $429.3 million from the Federal Highway Bridge Fund. Of its 22,669 bridges, 5,540 are considered structurally deficient, and 4,370 are considered functionally obsolete, according to the “2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.”

While Pennsylvania leads the states in problem bridges, it’s not as big a problem in Valley counties, which rank in the top 10 of the least number of structurally deficient spans, according to figures from Casey’s office.

In fact, with just 10 of its 108 bridges labeled deficient, Montour County leads the state with the least amount of bad bridges. The county has 61 off-system bridges.

Northumberland County ranked second with just 29 of 294 bridges marked deficient; 167 bridges are off-system.

Snyder County came in fifth best with 22 of 158 bridges in bad shape, and 97 off-system bridges. Union County was eighth with 24 of 155 bridges deemed deficient and 91 off-system spans.