PennDot imposing new weight limits on bridges

The Baltimore Avenue Bridge over Darby Creek, on the border of Lansdowne and Clifton Heights Boroughs, has a new weight restriction posted for heavy trucks. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )
The Baltimore Avenue Bridge over Darby Creek, on the border of Lansdowne and Clifton Heights Boroughs, has a new weight restriction posted for heavy trucks. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )
Posted: September 06, 2013

Taking the load off bridges and putting it on legislators, Pennsylvania highway officials on Wednesday set new weight limits on local spans as part of a campaign for more transportation funding.

As part of a move to limit heavy vehicles on about 130 bridges in the five-county Philadelphia region - and 1,000 bridges statewide - officials unveiled new restrictions on the Baltimore Avenue Bridge in Clifton Heights and the East Johnson Highway Bridge in Norristown.

"We're trying to buy time till funding is in place," said Lester Toaso, executive of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's Southeastern Pennsylvania district. He was standing on the side of the Baltimore Avenue Bridge over Darby Creek, with a new sign setting a 36-ton limit, down from the previous 40-ton limit.

That won't affect most vehicles, as the average car weighs about 1.5 tons and a loaded school bus about 17. But a fully loaded tractor-trailer typically weighs 40 tons, and drivers of those trucks now will have to find another way over Darby Creek, which will mean a four-mile detour.

Toaso said PennDot was using more conservative standards to evaluate bridges, hoping to extend their life while waiting for the legislature to increase funding for transportation.

Lawmakers return to Harrisburg late this month. They left for their summer recess July 1 after efforts to reach a deal on transportation funding collapsed in the final hours.

Faced with Gov. Corbett's proposal for $1.8 billion in additional funding, a $2.5 billion increase approved by the state Senate, or a $2 billion plan offered by House Republican leaders, state lawmakers picked none of the above.

Amid wrangling over how much to provide for public transit, how much to increase gas taxes and motorist fees, and linking transportation to efforts to privatize the state liquor business, lawmakers couldn't come to agreement.

The most visible consequence of that inaction may be the new bridge limits, and Toaso said they should not come as a surprise.

"The secretary [of PennDot, Barry Schoch] did warn that if something wasn't done on funding, we'd have to do something like this," Toaso said.

Since Thursday, eight bridges in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties have been posted with weight limits, and three other bridges have had existing limits lowered.

This week two more will be posted with weight limits and three others will have existing limits lowered.

By the end of the year, PennDot officials expect to post 86 state-owned bridges with new weight limits in the five-county Philadelphia region, and an additional 48 locally owned bridges will also be posted.


Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com

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