A Cost-Effective Way to Rebuild 500 Bridges
In leveraging public-private partnerships to replace many of its deficient bridges, Pennsylvania's new approach is realistic about the true costs of a transportation asset.
Pennsylvania's reign as the nation's leader in structurally deficient bridges will likely come to an end over the next few years, thanks to a 2012 state law that will dramatically boost infrastructure investment by authorizing public-private partnerships on a wide range of transportation projects.
About 18 percent of Pennsylvania's bridges are structurally deficient, which means deterioration of at least one component puts the bridge at risk for weight restriction and eventual closure. The national average is less than 8 percent.
But beginning next year, at least 500 of the Keystone State's more than 4,000 structurally deficient bridges will be rebuilt under the Pennsylvania P3 Act. Absent the act, the bridge replacements would take 15 to 20 years, according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt.
Since most of the new bridges will have similar designs and construction standards, PennDOT will save money by bundling the projects rather than designing and building them one at a time. And unlike traditional rebuilds, these projects won't be considered complete once the new bridges are built: Recognizing that operations and maintenance account for 80 to 90 percent of costs over the lifetime of a transportation asset, the private partners will also operate and maintain the bridges for as long as 40 years.
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