Stateline Story

Pennsylvania Struggles to Keep Up With Bridge Repairs

  • October 20, 2011
  • By John Gramlich
Pittsburgh is known as a city of bridges. But a new report finds that nearly a third of those bridges are structurally deficient - the highest such percentage of any metropolitan area in the United States.

Transportation for America, a coalition of advocacy groups that want more funding for transportation infrastructure, issued the report on Wednesday (October 19). The study examines the 102 largest metro areas in the nation and concludes that one in nine U.S. bridges is in need of repair.

"Put another way," the study says, "there are more deficient bridges in these 102 regions than there are McDonald's restaurants in the entire country — 18,239 versus about 14,000."

The problem is worst in Pennsylvania. Led by Pittsburgh, the state has six metro regions where bridge repairs are long overdue, even though state lawmakers have quadrupled funding for bridge repair over the last several years. On Wednesday, a prominent state lawmaker proposed legislation that could raise billions more for the state transportation system by raising vehicle registration and driver's license fees, among other steps, according to The Morning Call of Allentown .

Oklahoma and Iowa are second and third, respectively, in percentage of bridges that need to be fixed. California, meanwhile, has the nation's busiest structurally deficient bridges, with the study finding that 396 cars cross a deficient bridge in Los Angeles every second.

The Des Moines Register notes that the report is likely to be used by Iowa transportation advocates as they call for more infrastructure funding from the state. A committee appointed by Governor Terry Branstad this month called for a higher gas tax to help pay for road and bridge improvements, and Branstad, a Republican, has not ruled out the recommendation.

In Maryland, another state commission has recommended raising the gas tax, and Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley this week indicated he might go along with the idea, according to The Baltimore Sun .