Sen. Casey calls for more federal funding of failing bridges - abc27 WHTM

Sen. Casey calls for more federal funding of failing bridges

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U.S. Senator Bob Casey visited Harrisburg Monday to push Congress to provide more funding for failing bridges.

Water dripped a steady flow from a crack, not in a dam, but rather underneath Harrisburg's State Street bridge. The crumbling concrete reveals why Pennsylvania has the most structurally deficient bridges in America, according to a recent Federal Highway Administration report.

Out of Pennsylvania’s 22,000 bridges, about 5,200 - or 23 percent - have been deemed structurally deficient. Casey met with Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse near another failing capital city bridge on S. 13th Street near Paxton Street.

Casey explained the National Highway Trust funding runs dry in July and the Federal Transportation funding expires in September, two problems he said Congress needs to tackle now.

"We have both a funding problem as well as a planning and resource problem," he said.

Harrisburg has five structurally deficient bridges: State Street, Mulberry Street East, Mulberry Street West, 13th Street, and (Walnut Street) Royal Terrace over Jonestown Road.

City engineer Paul Francis said there are another four bridges listed as "functionally obsolete," bridges that were made with non-repairable materials. Those bridges are Maclay Street, Lyme Alley Bridge, Royal Terrace, and Mulberry Street.

The Mulberry Street bridge is by far Harrisburg’s worst bridge in need of repairs. This spring, the bridge was shut down and will undergo major reconstruction until Christmas.

Casey said beyond the obvious public safety hazard, failing bridges fail to connect a path to commerce.

"We cannot grow the economy without bridges that are structurally safe," he said.

Over the winter, Governor Tom Corbett inked the state’s $2.3 billion Transportation Funding Bill into law. Funds are allocated to tackle failing bridges, but many are state-owned. Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who was wearing a tie decorated with bridges, said the federal funds would fill the gap between state and city dollars.

"To be able to have the federal government come in and assist on the bridge issue will only allow us to allocate these funds slightly differently on the local level," Papenfuse said.

In 2013, Casey was able to lobby for $74 million of federal funding for the 2014 fiscal year. He said, the dollar amount has not been finalized for 2015, but he plans to fight for even more.

"If you don't start now and start making it a priority and chipping away at the list, we're gonna be in real trouble," he said.

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