Officials tout $1.6 billion in infrastructure funding for PA bridge projects

State and federal officials on Friday highlighted the impacts the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill passed in November will have on Pennsylvania, with a particular focus on bridges.

Pennsylvania is set to receive $1.6 billion over the next five years to repair more than 3,000 bridges across the Commonwealth, according to information provided by Governor Tom Wolf’s office. In fiscal year 2022, Keystone State will receive more than $327 million in federal funding for bridge projects.

“Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation for the number of bridges in poor condition (3,353 to be exact), so to say we will benefit from the recently announced Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funding is an understatement,” U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan, D.-6th District, said during a Zoom press conference announcing the funding Friday.

Undoubtedly, part of the reason Pennsylvania has so many bridges is the fact that it is home to more than 86,000 miles of rivers, streams, and streams – second only to Alaska in the United States; not to mention all the bridges over other roads and railway bridges.

That’s likely why Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation for bridge funding under the program announced Friday, Houlahan said.

Locally, projects that could benefit from the funding include bridge improvements, repairs and replacements on Route 422 in Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties; and on the I-95, I-476, and Route 322 bridges in Delaware County, according to PennDOT project listings planned for the region.

“Strong infrastructure is essential to the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians, especially strong and safe bridges. Bridges are the lifelines that connect our communities to each other, while modern, reliable infrastructure is essential for the expansion of Pennsylvania-based businesses,” Wolf said in a press release.

U.S. Representatives Chrissy Houlahan, left, and Susan Wild held a Zoom press conference Friday to talk about the impact of the infrastructure bill on bridge projects. (MediaNews Group image from screenshot)

U.S. Representative Susan Wild, D-7th District, said her district in the Lehigh Valley has seen an explosion of warehouses and they are having a huge impact on our roads and bridges.

Improved roads and bridges also serve existing manufacturers and these improvements can encourage future growth, she added.

And it’s not just big business that benefits.

Houlahan, who represents all of Chester and part of Berks Counties, said he visited a baker whose delivery routes have to cross a bridge with limited weight capacity so they can only load half the truck.

“They have to make two trips,” Houlahan said.

Examples like this, she said, indicate that improved bridges not only help businesses, commuters and travelers, but improve quality of life by improving air quality through reduced vehicle emissions.

It’s also timely, Houlahan said, “especially after the flooding and destruction we suffered from Hurricane Ida, our municipal leaders and union teams are ready to rebuild. This investment will benefit our entire Commonwealth.

The program represents the largest investment in bridge repair in US history.

In a press release, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the program “the largest such investment in U.S. history,” committing $26.5 billion to states over the five coming years. Nationally, the bridge funding program is expected to help repair approximately 15,000 bridges.

“Upgrading America’s bridges will help improve safety, support economic growth and improve the lives of people in all parts of the country – in rural, suburban, urban and tribal communities,” Buttigieg said.

An analysis released last year by TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research organization, found that Pennsylvania is the 11th worst state in the nation in terms of the state of its interstate system and the 12th worst in terms of condition and structural integrity of its highway. bridges.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Pennsylvania a D grade for roads and bridges in its 2018 report, the latest available.

In addition to providing funds to states to replace, rehabilitate, preserve, protect and construct highway bridges, the Bridge Formula Program has dedicated funds to “off-system” bridges, locally owned facilities that are not on the federal highway. system.

While states must normally match federal funding with up to 20% state or local funding, guidelines released Friday indicate that federal funds can be used for 100% of the cost of repairing or rehabilitating these off-system-owned bridges. to premises.

The extra money for bridges is in addition to the $4 billion over five years for state highways that PennDOT will receive under the infrastructure bill. That will average about an additional $1.33 billion over five years, but that’s still well below the additional $8.1 billion a year the state says it needs to deal with normal annual roadwork and the bridges.

Consider that in just one PennDOT district — which includes Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks, Chester and Montgomery counties — the list of 396 projects to which funding could be applied adds up to about $6.7 billion.

In PennDOT District 5, which includes Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton and Schuylkill counties, the list of needed works includes 372 projects that total approximately $3.4 billion.

“As far as specific bridges go, we’re not there yet,” Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokeswoman Alexis Campbell said in a news release. “We are doing the 2023 update [to the state bridge program] now. We will use this money wisely, that’s for sure.

While no decision has yet been made on which of these projects will be funded as a result of this bill, Houlahan noted that because so many of the projects on these lists have been under discussion and planned for so long, “many of them are shovels -ready.”

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