In February, the Federal Highway Administration released data that revealed 50 Centre County bridges to be structurally deficient, but according to the state Department of Transportation, 15 of those bridges will be repaired or replaced by the end of the construction season.
On Monday, construction will begin on the final bridge project scheduled in the county for the remainder of the construction season, according to PennDOT’s website. The bridge that spans Slab Cabin Run on East Branch Road in State College will be closed to all traffic. The project will cost about $1.8 million and is expected to be completed in late August, according to PennDOT.
A bridge receives the structurally deficient designation if a licensed bridge inspector determines at least one element of the deck, super-structure or substructure is in poor condition. The bridge can still be used, but weight restrictions are applied and the bridge is closely monitored by PennDOT.
Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation, behind Iowa, with just more than 4,500 bridges classified as structurally deficient, according to the FHA. Centre County has 356 bridges in use, 50 (14 percent) of which are structurally deficient.
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Though the commonwealth maintains state-owned bridges, local municipalities are responsible for the “off-system” bridges. Municipalities establish Municipal Planning Organizations to address the financial needs for the projects by applying for grant money through the state, which receives infrastructure revenue from the federal government.
“When it comes to Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges, safety must remain the utmost priority and I believe we have come a long way in addressing the backlog of maintenance,” U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, said in an email. “I have advocated to ensure that states must set a percentage of federal funds for the purpose of these ‘off-system’ bridges, which are maintained at a local level.”
In June, Centre County announced it would continue its efforts to address its structurally deficient bridges. Mike Bloom, Centre County senior transportation planner, informed the board of commissioners that he would be applying for a grant to replace three bridges in the county. The project would cost about $1.7 million dollars and the county would have to contribute $500,000 in match funds.
The grant application is due by July, 31 and the awards will be distributed by the end of the year, which is when PennDOT will update the 2018 bridge project schedule.