The Commonwealth's Secretary of Transportation Barry J. Schoch held a press conference last Thursday to discuss the condition and necessity of implementing weight restrictions on 1,000 State and Locally-owned bridges.
The Department of Transportation was kind enough to provide us with lists of state and locally owned bridges that are structurally deficient (SD) and require weight limitations to extend the useful life of the bridge.
Schoch noted that the decision came in the wake of legislative inaction on a transportation funding proposal that would ensure the Department of Transportation sufficient revenues to make necessary repairs to structurally deficient (SD) bridges.
As a result, we decided to crunch the numbers and show our viewers how our State Legislators voted on SB1 and the number of bridges that will be posted within the next 4 to 6 months in their districts.
Before we dive into the data it’s necessary to explain how we arrived at this point and the rhetoric we can expect to hear from the parties involved as they begin to justify the inconvenience of emergency services, businesses and motorists throughout the Commonwealth.
Senate Transportation Chairman Senator Rafferty (R)-44 introduced his transportation funding plan on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Rafferty describes the provisions of SB1 in the following video.
As the legislative process unfolded, the SB1 was amended on June 3rd by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Once the language was shored up, SB1 received its final consideration in the Senate on June 6th where it passed by a vote of 45 – 5. The five Senators that voted against SB 1 are listed next to the number of bridges in their district that will have weight restrictions imposed: Boscola - 5, Kasunic - 26, Williams - 1, Hutchinson – 33, and Ward - 18. Upon final passage the bill was sent to the House where it remains till this day.
What stalled the bill you ask? Ideologies, rhetoric, and partisanship as House Republicans and Democrats played chicken with their constituents playing the role as unwilling passengers.
Ideologies and rhetoric:
Look no further than Daryl Metcalf’s NO GAS TAX press conference which took place shortly after SB1 was received in the House. An easy position to take when you only have 4 bridges subject to restrictions in a legislative district? You can view the full press conference here.
After the press conference I had the opportunity to ask Representative Metcalfe about his specific initiatives which he intended to offer in the form of amendments to SB 1 or as individual bills that would re-prioritize transportation spending.
As opposed to admitting that nothing existed, Metcalfe went on to blame Governor Corbett and “The Bureaucracy” as he transitioned back to railing on Welfare spending. When asked about the legislature’s role in determining how the Governor and “The Bureaucracy” officiate the law, he continued to repeat himself. Needless to say, I did not receive an answer.
The same sentiment was recently displayed by Matt Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation in an article that ran on ABC27.com, “Spend better, not more on transportation.”
"We shouldn't be spending money on new road construction when there are bridges falling down," Brouillette said. "Our tax dollars shouldn't be going to beautification projects when we have bridges falling down. We ought not be taking money off of our roads to subsidize mass transit. We oughta be making those riders pay more for their ride."
When asked about the validity of these claims, a Department of Transportation Spokesperson offered the following, "New road construction projects are almost nonexistent, with that encompassing roughly 3 percent of our budget. In fact, adding new lanes at intersections or interchanges is almost the full extent of any new roads being built."
They Continued, “Any current 'highway beautification' spending is essentially litter pickup. Not only does it remove unsightly distractions along our roadways, but removing things like tires or items that could end up on the roadway or blocking someone’s vision is essential for safety."
In regard to mass transit they offered the following, "Transit is available in every single county in Pennsylvania. Transit fares across the state and on Amtrak's Keystone Corridor have increased by 30 percent over the past 10 years while highway fees have not increased at all when you look at the rate of fees. In reviewing their budgets, transit systems have the ability to request fare increases, which PennDOT must approve. Especially in rural areas, fare increases most affect seniors and persons with disabilities, as those are the basic services offered."
The following list contains the top ten House and Senate Legislative Districts in Pennsylvania along with the number of bridges that will have posted weight limits imposed.
Martin Causer (R) - 39
Sandra major (R) - 31
Mario Scavello (R) - 23
Kathy Rapp (R)- 20
Michael Peifer (R) - 20
Rosemary M. Brown (R) - 19
Mike Fleck (R) - 15
Mike Hanna (D) - 14
Pam Snyder (D) - 14
Garth Everett (R) - 13
Joseph B. Scarnatti (R) - 73
Randa Vulakovich (R) - 64
Lisa Baker (R) - 58
Robert Robbins (R) - 41
David Argall (R) - 39
Timothy Solobay (D) - 37
Scott E. Hutchinson (R) - 33
Gene Yaw (R) - 32
Don C. White (R) - 28
Richard Kasunic (D) - 26
In order to use the map below, select a House or Senate member in the top lefthand corner and click "search". Bridges that are scheduled to be posted will be highlighted by red markers. You can view individual bridge information by clicking the red markers. You may also view each legislator and their vote on SB1 (if available) by clicking anywhere inside their district. If they voted against SB1, this will be indicated within the info window.
There were a few bridges whose locations could not be resolved as a result of conflicts between the Department of Transportation's data.