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Pa. Falls To 2nd Place On List Of States With Most Compromised Bridges

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A report says that Pennsylvania has the second highest number of "structurally deficient" bridges in the United States, but many in the Pittsburgh area are scheduled to be repaired.

When it comes to Pittsburgh, we are branded by our rivers. Three Rivers, River City, the Point, so much of what shapes our image is intertwined with the Allegheny, Mon and Ohio. So vital to life in our neck of the woods are bridges, and we have plenty of them.

In just the three-county area of PennDOT, District 11 there are 1,800 bridges.

Five years ago, 355 of those were listed in poor condition.

"We've reduced our number in our district by about 175," District 11 Executive Cheryl Moon-Sirianni said.

There are 190 left.

"We are spending, I think, about $107 million this year on our bridge program in our district. We're working on about 43 bridges in the district this year, 43 poor bridges. We actually have 48 bridges total that we're addressing," Moon-Sirianni said.

bridge work
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Some of that work is to make sure other bridges don't end up in poor condition. Some of the work is addressing or has address problems on major spans.

"We're addressing the Elizabeth Bridge right now, we've addressed Vanport Bridge, and the Hulton Bridge is brand new, as you know. It is good to say we've addressed the Liberty Bridge, which was on the TV as the poster child for bad bridges for a while," Moon-Sirianni said.

The Liberty Bridge is a good example on just how expensive these repairs can be. To get the Mon River span back to good condition cost PennDOT $80 million.

PennDOT points out a poor condition bridge does not mean unsafe.

Lou Ruzzi is the District 11 Bridge Engineer.

"When you see poor conditions out there, it may be a pothole, it may be concrete that comes off the bridge and lands on the ground, maybe a really rusty-looking bridge. They are safe or they wouldn't be open," Ruzzi said.

A few major spans are still on the "poor condition" list but they are also in PennDOT's crosshairs.

"McKees Rocks Bridge, Tarentum Bridge, those are still under design and hopefully we'll get to them in the next few years," Moon-Sirianni said.

Also, the New Kensington Bridge is on its way to a major upgrade, and the bridge that carries I-79 across the Ohio at Neville Island will sprout orange and construction barricades later this year.

It wasn't that long ago Pennsylvania was number one on the list of poor condition bridges, but the state isn't satisfied with now being number two. But there is only so much money.

"We have to balance the amount we spend on bridges with what we spend on roadways," Moon-Siranni said.

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