ABC27 News investigates Pennsylvania’s structurally-deficient bridges

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania has about 25,000 state-owned bridges, with around 3,400 of them in the Midstate.

The state also has the second-highest number of structurally deficient bridges in the entire country. PennDOT’s Right-To-Know officer directed us to hundreds of pages on bridges. Reporter Dawn White went through those papers.

Many of you may travel along North Cameron Street in Harrisburg. A bridge crosses the Asylum Run on Delaware Street. The Farm Show Complex is just a few blocks north of it. Part of the deck is crumbling because it’s one of the almost 500 structurally deficient bridges in the Midstate.

Two bridges along Spanglers Mill Road in Cumberland County may look like many you drive on.

“When we inspect a bridge, we look at, in this case, the steel beams, and as you can see with rusting we have section loss, which diminishes the load-carrying capacity of the bridge.,” PennDOT District 8 bridge engineer Douglas Knoll said.

One bridge goes over Mill Race and the other over Yellow Breeches Creek in Lower Allen Township. Both are structurally deficient.

“They’re still safe,” Knoll said. “If a bridge is unsafe, we’ll either close it or restrict traffic on it.”

“Structurally deficient is a term used for a bridge that is basically in deterioration. We have a scale. It goes from zero to nine. Nine is the best. Zero is the worst,” PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said.

A bridge becomes structurally deficient when one of three parts gets a rating of four or below.

“You have the supports of the bridge, which is called the substructure. You have the superstructure, which is basically the beams that compose the bridge. Then, there’s the deck, and the deck is part of the bridge that carries the vehicles,” Penny said.

Both the deck and superstructure of the Cameron Street bridge got a rating of four and made it structurally deficient.

Many main routes have deteriorating bridges. A bridge along Route 11/15 over Fishing Creek in Marysville and a bridge along Route 34 over Hunter’s Run in Cumberland County are structurally deficient.

“A lot of the way we prioritize bridges are the condition of the bridge and what network it’s on. The interstates are going to take a higher priority than some of the other roads,” Penny said.

Twelve-point-57 percent of bridges in Adams County are structurally deficient. That’s the highest percentage in the Midstate. Dauphin County has the lowest percentage of structurally deficient bridges at 2.75 percent.

Lancaster County has 136 state-owned structurally deficient bridges. That’s the highest number out of any county in the Midstate and tied for third in the state. York County comes in second with 104. Adams County comes is third with 61 structurally deficient bridges. Juniata County has 53, Perry County has 52, Franklin County has 40, Cumberland County had 39, Dauphin County as 31, Lebanon County has 23, and Mifflin County has 19.

Many of those bridges are between 50 and 100 years old.

“We have such a large inventory of older bridges,” Penny said. “They’re basically starting to wear out, and that’s why we rank so high.”

PennDOT will spend almost $1 billion for their Rapid Bridge Replacement Project. A bridge along Route 616 over the Codorus Creek in Glen Rock is scheduled to be replaced later this year as part of the program.

“Here in a case of three to four years, we’ll replace 558 structurally deficient bridges across the state, help bring down our numbers, and in South-Central Pennsylvania, that comes to about 91 bridges,” Penny said.

You can see a list of every structurally deficient bridge in the state by clicking on this list and looking under “SD.” It also breaks down the rating for the three parts of the bridge from zero nine.

A list of bridges to be replaced by the Rapid Bridge Replacement Program is here.Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download the ABC27 News App and the ABC27 Weather App for your phone and tablet.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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