Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
Over the next five months, new signs are going up at about 1,000 of the state's bridges - warning of the kind of weight limits that mean tractor trailers, fire trucks, and school buses will have a find a different route to their destination. The newly announced limits won't have much of an impact on the routes of motorists, but could lead to higher costs for goods and services and longer waits for emergency response.
PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch has warned of the restrictions for months. In June, a proposal to generate money by raising motorist fees and a tax on gasoline stalled in the Legislature. Schoch said Thursday if state lawmakers can't approve new revenue for transportation this fall, additional weight restrictions are coming for hundreds more bridges.
"If we don't deal with it, I'll be back again next spring with another list," Schoch said. "300 bridges age onto the system every year. This is not a problem that's going to go away without resources."
The new or more severe weight restrictions will be posted at a rate of about 200 per month for the next several months. Some bridges will have their approved weight capacity reduced by 10 percent. Bridges that are in worse condition, or those that see more truck traffic, will have their load capacity reduced by 20 percent. According to PennDOT, about 2,200 bridges are weight-limited now.
Schoch stressed that additional weight limits don't mean bridges are unsafe.
"We're restricting the weight so that we can slow down the deterioration and so that we can apply our resources... to make sure that we don't have a bigger problem coming at us in the future," Schoch said.
Even if a transportation funding bill passes this fall, Schoch said it won't eliminate the need for these one-thousand weight restrictions.
"That will certainly help and it will make sure this problem doesn't get worse, but we're not going to stop this," he said. "This is a new policy that's reflective, again, of the age of the system and something that we simply need to do."
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