Battle over bridge funding could cause traffic woes

Call it a troubled bridge over rough waters. The head of PennDOT has given state lawmakers an ultimatum on Pennsylvania's bridges: fund em' or find yourself in stuck in traffic.

Who knew that despite all the bright orange cones and yellow vests on the roadways these days, there still needs to be more? Specifically, Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch would like to see crews brighten up bridges across the state.

During a Senate Transportation Committee hearing this week, Schoch urged lawmakers to pass a spending plan that would fund fixes for crumbling bridges. Without it, Schoch is ready to give 2,200 bridges new weight restrictions.

“Clearly, as I've been saying all year – all two and-a-half years in office – if we don't take action, there's consequences,” Schoch said.

Schoch said more than 1,000 bridges could see increased weight restrictions starting this month. He said weight restrictions would slow down deterioration, but also cause traffic congestion when heavy vehicles are forced to take alternate routes.

School buses, Schoch said, would be impacted when students return to class, and emergency responders would be more likely to get held up in traffic.

“I outlined what would be the benefits of taking action and consequences of not taking action,” Schoch said. “Action didn't occur, time for consequences.”

Governor Tom Corbett has proposed a $1.8 billion transportation funding plan, and a Senate proposal would spend $2.5 billion plan on Pennsylvania's roads, bridges and mass transit, but neither plan has passed the legislature.

Schoch believes the more the state legislature pumps the brakes on transportation, the more cash they'll burn sitting in traffic, taxes, shipping costs, product costs, and various other related increases attached to Pennsylvania's infrastructure.

“There's a cost to doing nothing,” Schoch said. “To everyone, whether you drive or not, I keep saying government will charge you one way or another.”

 

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