(WHTM) — A Midstate bridge has been placed under a weight restriction. The Columbia-Wrightsville bridge, a major bridge that connects Lancaster and York counties, was built in 1930. abc27 also wanted to find out how widespread these infrastructure issues are.
The Wrightsville bridge nearing the end of an average bridge’s lifespan, but it is considered in fair condition. PennDOT said this restriction is how the system is supposed to work, but it can still cause problems.
“I think this is an example of our inspection program actually working,” Dave Thompson, PennDOT District 8’s community relations coordinator, said.
Thompson said Pennsylvania’s bridges are inspected every two years, and when inspectors looked at the Wrightsville bridge in June, they found deterioration to load-carrying parts of the structure.
“Support columns that support the deck, we found some cracking,” Thompson said.
PennDOT decided it had to take action.
“Any time we find significant deterioration or any deterioration that occurred in a short period of time, that does cause some concerns,” Thompson said.
The department imposed a weight restriction, limiting the weight of each vehicle to 10 tons. Thompson this would “reduce stress on the bridge and…reduce further deterioration.”
Thompson also said this does not mean the bridge is unsafe.
He added most major issues with issues can be prevented with regular maintenance which PennDOT prioritizes.
“Take the funding that we have available to us and use that in a fashion that gets the most bang for the buck,” he said.
However, the Wrightsville bridge is close to 100 years old, near the end of an average bridge’s lifespan. PennDOT had a bigger project for it ready to roll out later this year but because of the deterioration, they have to push it back to at least 2025.
“We’re going to expand the scope of that project now, which will cause us to have to redesign,” Thompson explained.
Is this a sign of bigger infrastructure issues? Not necessarily: over half of the state’s bridges are in fair condition, including the Wrightsville bridge. Less than 10 percent are in “poor” condition. But even small issues can cause large problems.
“Every diversion carries with it a cost,” said Megan Magensky, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association.
Magensky said the Wrightsville weight restriction is a relatively small problem and mostly impacts local deliveries. Still, trucks will have to take an almost 9-mile detour to avoid the bridge.
“So that adds to the cost of the delivery, that adds to the cost of fuels,” she said, adding that it also requires large trucks to take small side roads.
That can impact small businesses and consumers in both cost and timing of deliveries, which is why Magensky said PennDOT’s job is so crucial.
“If our infrastructure is crumbling and not working correctly, then trucks can’t use it,” she said.
abc27 also asked PennDOT about how it funds bridge repairs and if it has enough money to make necessary repairs. A spokesperson said nearly 80 percent of the funding comes from the state and federal gas tax, much more than many other states. That funding is not just for bridge repairs, but for state and locally-owned road projects as well.
PennDOT’S spokesperson said the department wants the budget to get passed soon. Under the current version, PennDOT will receive about $1.5 billion more to invest in infrastructure over the next few years.