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Expert Weighs In On Safety Of Local Bridges

(Photo Credit: NewsChopper 2/ KDKA)

(Photo Credit: NewsChopper 2/ KDKA)

(Source: KDKA-TV) Stacy Smith
Stacy Smith anchors KDKA-TV News at Noon and KDKA-TV News at Four and...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Driving in our region without crossing a bridge is impossible — and the largest traffic loads are carried by our bridges.

But a number of our bridges are classified as structurally deficient.

In western Pennsylvania, 1,054 bridges are structurally deficient. That’s nearly a quarter of the bridges in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

That means the superstructure, substructure or deck — is in poor condition or worse

“It means that certainly the bridge from a structural perspective is not up to the standard of a new bridge — not up to code as it were,” said Kent Harries, Associate Professor of structural engineering and applied mechanics at Pitt.

But should you be worried?

“Because it is structurally deficient does not mean it is unsafe to drive across,” Harries said. “If it were unsafe, I absolutely guarantee you PennDOT would have it shut down.”

So then, why are the bridges so bad?

“Maintenance, or lack of maintenance,” Harries said. “Lack of political will, lack of resource to provide the maintenance to an aging infrastructure.”

Over the past three years, more than 1,000 bridges across the state have been fixed so they are no longer structurally deficient — thanks to federal stimulus dollars and a state bond.

But that money is gone.

The number of deficient bridges in Pennsylvania has gone down.

“Some of that comes from the stimulus money that came in to address physical infrastructure and bridges in particular,” Harries said. “You can’t just build it and walk away and expect it to last 40 years let alone 140 years which is what we’re demanding now of a lot of our major infrastructure.”

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