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Bad bridges

Published July 09. 2011 09:02AM

For years, Pennsylvania's highways were ranked the worst in the country by truckers, according to Overdrive Magazine.

There has been no such ranking this year, but another publication has taken a swipe at the state's travel system.

"Transportation for America," also known as "T4," is regarded as the largest, most diverse coalition working on transportation reform today. It ranks Pennsylvania's bridges the worst in the country, stating 26.5 percent are structurally deficient.

The coalition says of the state's 22,271 bridges, 5,906 are structurally deficient, more in both percentage and volume that any other state.

Ranked second worse is Oklahoma with 22.0 percent being structurally deficient. Other top 5 states are Iowa, Rhode Island, and South Dakota.

This isn't the first time the state's bridges have been given negative marks nationally. In 2006, a study of all bridges in Pa., mandated by the Federal Highway Administration, indicated scores of them were deficient.

The Thomas J. McCall Bridge, which carries Route 209 traffic and spans the Lehigh River and Weissport Borough, was ranked the fifth worse deck truss highway bridge in the state. Built in 1938, the bridge had accumulated 29 points in a possible scoring of 100 during an inspection.

The rankings of deck truss bridges occurred following the collapse on Aug. 1, 2007, of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge that carried Interstate 35W across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minn. There were 13 people killed and 145 injured in that incident.

An inspection of the bridge by PennDOT officials on Aug. 20, 2007, led by then Rep. Keith McCall, determined that although the bridge had a low sufficiency rating, it was still safe.

Given priority for replacement in Carbon County is the inner-borough bridge in Jim Thorpe, which carries Route 903 traffic.

Although not a deck truss bridge, it has been determined the bridge is in need of replacement. The bridge was constructed in 1950 and planning for the replacement is in the preliminary engineering phase. It has been in the preliminary engineering phase for several years.

In 1993, the Jim Thorpe bridge was closed for several days when a crack was found in its substructure during a routine PennDOT inspection. After more evaluation, it was determined the crack did not present a safety deficiency.

The rehabilitation of the McCall Bridge is also listed in the preliminary engineering phase.

The T4 report says the average daily traffic on the state's deficient bridges is nearly 23 million vehicles.

The report also lists the worst 100 counties in the nation for structurally deficient bridges.

McKean County ranks sixth worst in the nation, while Potter County is seventh worst.

Schuylkill County, with 151 of its 361 bridges rated deficient, ranks 22nd in the nation.

Carbon County isn't rated in the top 100. In fact, it doesn't make the bottom 15 list in the state.

Monroe County is ranked sixth worst in the state and 26th worst in the nation.

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