Harrisburg, PA- With Pennsylvania leading the nation in structurally deficient bridges, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) unveiled a bipartisan bill that would increase funding for bridges owned by counties and municipalities. So-called ‘off-system’ bridges, which are owned solely by counties and municipalities, are chronically underfunded. There are 147 bridges with structural issues in Dauphin county alone. Joined by officials and business leaders from the region, Casey pushed for passage of the bill. The legislation is modeled after a previous Casey effort that became law during a 2012 transportation bill known as MAP-21, and invested over $70 million annually in off-system bridges during Pennsylvania for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.
“These off-system bridges are the foundation of our infrastructure network, as they often represent the first and last miles of every trip,” Senator Casey said. “Investing in repairing our nation’s structurally deficient bridges will create jobs and improve infrastructure in Central Pennsylvania and throughout the state.”
Off-system bridges, bridges owned by counties or municipalities, were initially excluded from the federal National Highway System and thus from receiving federal funding. In 2013 these bridges received a reprieve from the federal funding cut-off because of a Casey provision in a MAP-21, a surface transportation reauthorization bill, that made bridges owned by counties and municipalities eligible. This effort resulted in $74M in bridge repair for Pennsylvania in FY 2013 and FY 2014. The bill Casey will discuss will make his previous provision permanent law thereby restoring the funding for these aging bridges and restore federal funding for bridges regardless of their designation. The proposal has received strong bipartisan support in the past. There are over 590,000 bridges in the United States, and more than fifty percent are off-system. Pennsylvania leads the country in structurally deficient bridges currently with 5,543 out of 22,667 total bridges being classified as structurally deficient. This translates to over 19 million daily trips taken over structurally deficient bridges
MAP-21, a federal transportation bill that became law in 2012, eliminated the Highway Bridge Program, which shifted the program’s funding to the National Highway Performance Program (NHPP). Unfortunately, funding for the National Highway Performance Program only supports projects on the National Highway System (NHS), which excludes 467,584 on-and off-system bridges.
Restricting these dollars for use on a very limited number of bridges shortchanges the vast majority of our nation’s bridges, including those bridges with the greatest need for repair. According to the National Bridge Inventory, 10 percent of the nation’s bridges are considered structurally deficient and 14 percent qualify as being functionally obsolete. Nearly 90 percent of the nation’s structurally deficient bridges and more than 70 percent of the nation’s functionally obsolete bridges are not on the NHS and thus not eligible for federal funding. Limiting this funding to the projects eligible under the National Highway Performance Program creates a disparity that endangers the safety of citizens in urban and rural communities across the county.
The bill would restore funding eligibility to all of our nation’s bridges regardless of their designation. The bill would reestablish the Highway Bridge Program funding level from the NHPP Program to the Surface Transportation Program while maintaining the set aside for off-system bridges, which have the highest rate of structural deficiency and represent nearly half of the nation’s bridges.
Dauphin County Bridge Data
Total Bridges – 438
Total Off-System Bridges – 171
Total On-System Bridges – 267
Total On-System Bridges on the NHS – 172
Total On-System Bridges not on the NHS – 95
County-owned Bridges – 51
County-owned Bridges On-System – 2
County-owned Bridges Off-System – 49
Total Structurally Deficient Bridges – 48
Structurally Deficient Bridges (county-owned) – 5
Structurally Deficient Bridges On-System (county-owned) – 0
Structurally Deficient Bridges Off-System (county-owned) – 55
Total Functionally Obsolete Bridges – 99
Functionally Obsolete Bridges (county-owned) – 2
Functionally Obsolete Bridges On-System (county-owned) – 1
Functionally Obsolete Bridges Off-System (county-owned) – 1