By Jessica BerardinoBy Mike Pintek

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has solicited proposals to the private sector for a company to repair and maintain bridges. As a result of Act 88 of 2012, transportation projects can enlist help from private industries.

There are at least 500 bridges across the state that need repaired or replaced. There are roughly 50 to 100 in Western Pennsylvania. This is a state-wide effort to help PennDOT maintain all their bridges. However, PennDOT will still be responsible for snow maintenance on the bridge, but all other repairs will be the responsibility of the company who is taking care of that bridge.

PennDOT District 11 Executive, Dan Cessna, explains to KDKA Radio’s Mike Pintek that PennDOT will be paying these companies who maintain the bridge and he’s hoping that this will become “a good tool in the tool box.”

“We hope to save taxpayers’ dollars, bring more quality bridges to the area and fix more bridges in a shorter period of time,” said Cessna.

The bridges will be bundled together more efficiently by grouping their similar problems or length. They also plan to keep costs down by only including bridges that need replaced, not just repaired.

“After a certain period of time, when the Public Private Partnership Opportunity as we’re calling it, has ended we will make the company responsible for returning the bridge to us in a manner that we will decide,” said Cessna. “We have not yet worked out what those conditions will be or what the prescribed payment plan will be either. But the public won’t need to worry, these bridges cannot be tolled.”

Along with the transportation project on the bridges, there is an icing problem that continues to affect the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. Once the temperature drops below 25 degrees, PennDOT must pause traffic on the inbound side to either remove snow and ice or lay down the de-icing chemical.

“We plan to have this rehabilitation project done by the summer, but with this winter weather that could always change,” said Cessna.

On Tuesday, PennDOT was challenged with heavy traffic flow and consistent snow fall. Crews were out all night preparing for the snow, but it just came at the wrong time.

“Sometimes it only takes some small spots of isolated traffic, or ice to cause an accident that can back everything up,” said Cessna. “When the weather reaches below 20 degrees it’s difficult to pre-treat the roads. The chemicals need the heat from traffic to work. There’s no simple solution to prevent traffic when the snow falls during rush hour.”

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