Pennsylvania makes progress on bridge replacement projects

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) – Construction sounds can be heard from Jennifer Kessler’s home and shop on Route 11 in Dickinson Township, and yet she says the road is quieter than ever.

“It is very busy as it is, let alone 81 being shut down,” Kessler said, talking about constant car accidents on the interstate. “It’s 10 times worse.”

“That is a major detour route for incidents that occur on I-81,” PennDOT spokesman Mike Crochunis said.

It’s why PennDOT ordered Accelerated Bridge Construction on the Route 11/Ritner Highway bridge. The structure is 80 years old and deemed deficient.

“It was pretty bad,” construction worker Josh Foster said.

The road is closed for two weeks. A partial shutdown could have dragged the project on for a year.

“We worked long hours and around the clock,” Foster said.

Crochunis says accelerated projects could be the way of the future.

“Now that we’re seeing more of this work done throughout the state, the cost for these construction projects is going down a bit,” he said.

Pennsylvania’s Rapid Bridge Replacement project aims to fix more than 500 bad bridges in three years. That still leaves about 4,000.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” Crochunis said, “but it’s a slow climb.”

The climb has Pennsylvania with the third biggest drop in structurally deficient bridges since 2007, according to an analysis by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. The state is still the second-worst in the country.

“You notice when you leave the state the roads are much better,” Kessler said.

PennDOT doesn’t anticipate a huge spike in the national ranking for several years, but the state is getting closer every day. Projects continue to pop up on Pennsylvania bridges, and the Route 11 project will be complete by Saturday, just two weeks after its start date.

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