A Bridge (Plan) To Nowhere

Bridge Repair

Pennsylvania, as I have noted on occasion, is a very old state in many ways. It is not unique in that regard – there are other ancient states in the United States – but in fact a lot of stuff we use each day here is…old.

No shame in that…unless we’re talking bridges.

For as long as I’ve been alive the subject of aging bridges has been at the top of the agenda each year when the Commonwealth annually reviews what needs immediate attention.

It will be staying at the top of the annual agenda for a long, long, long time. At least as long as some of these bridges have been around…bridges I need not (but will anyway) remind you a lot of people drive across daily.

The residents of Chester County (a group including my wife and I) were recently notified vehicle owners will be required to pay a $5 additional charge each year – per car or truck –when annual Pennsylvania vehicle registration comes due. This is to help fund bridge repairs and reconstruction within the County. No problem there. Not a lot of money. Always glad to help improve our quality of life. Sounds like a plan.

These additional funds collected by Pennsylvania on Chester County’s behalf will be set aside in an account exclusive to County use. The County will then use those funds, estimated to be just north of $2 million, for those bridges deemed as “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete.”

It should be noted we’ve been reassured these classifications don’t mean the bridges can’t support traffic. A curious choice of words if that’s the case. I need not (but will anyway) remind you those definitions apply to bridges a lot of people drive across daily.

I don’t know about you but “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete” works much better for me when we’re talking a line of dominoes or Legos…instead of a line of cars or trucks.

According to information compiled by the West Chester Daily Local News:

Chester County has 94 bridges (including two shared with other Counties).

The life span of the bridges is generally considered to be 50 years.

The County Facilities Department previously had a goal of restoring or replacing two bridges per year.

As they “stand” 57 of the bridges are over 75 years old and 31 are over 100 years old. Of the 94 bridges…34 fall into the “structurally deficient” definition while 61 rate “functionally obsolete.”

And as for the Facilities Department performance…Chester County has only been able to meet its goal of restoring or replacing two bridges per year 12 times since 1980.

In 12 other years no bridge work was done in the County at all.

Even with this new influx of cash the goal for these bridges has to also cross a bridge of rising construction costs. Therefore the new goal is now to restore or replace one and a half bridges in the County per year. (I don’t even know where to take this with a “half” a bridge…)

Forgive us if we start diverting around these structures. These numbers don’t support our lifespans being extended by driving over these spans.

We’re quite behind on all this but at least there’s a new plan. How do we ever catch up?

Well…let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.


About sportsattitudes

I'm Bruce. Born, raised and still outside the City of Brotherly Love. Managed (so far) to visit a dozen of our United States and Canada (twice). Addicted from birth to Television/Movies/Sports. Took three years of French and got credit for two of 'em.
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40 Responses to A Bridge (Plan) To Nowhere

  1. George says:

    I hold my breath and drive a little faster everytime I go over one of these old bridges. The Tappan Zee makes me crazy but there are a lot older ones out there and yes, PA. Has more than its share as we do here in NJ. I remember some years ago coming back from the New England are on 95 and watching the news a week later showing us the bridge we traveled over a few days before had collapsed. That’s was too close for comfort.
    I wonder if the money they collect from you will actually be used for repairs or be diverted somewhere else, because that’s never happened before.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. cmblackwood says:

    That’s a bit scary. So pretty much none of them are what you’d call “structurally sound!” Makes you think of BEETLEJUICE, when Barbara and Adam went crashing into the river. Yikes. :/

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Laura says:

    I think our country has totally neglected our infrastructure such as utilities and transportation for example. I think the upgrades are past due and will provide jobs for many people. I hope your bridge does indeed get fixed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laura, I agree the whole country is way, way behind on these issues and it’s certainly an opportunity to stimulate the economy providing the powers that be are willing to get going and take this more seriously.


  4. While I like vintage and antique things, I would say bridges are not among them. Unless of course it’s no longer in use and then makes for a nostalgic photo or such, but actually driving across them? I’ll just wish you good luck in your bridge crossing!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Wow hard to believe they have been left so long! I will think twice when I cross a bridge now!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Quirky Girl says:

    “Structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete” are certainly not comforting phrases. As much as I love older areas of this country because they’re rich in history, well, the infrastructure can be downright scary.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s a really old(but elegantly detailed) 2 lane stone/concrete on the edge of downtown Houston. It’s too narrow. People have been routing heavy loads around it for years. It leads into a “historic” neighborhood. The new people redoing/buying redone houses are livid others want to tear the bridge down and replace it with a sturdy functional one – for uses other than bikes, strollers, and hover cars. Bet there will be showdown with people chained to the pillars. Sadly years of neglect cannot be reversed….(so they will probably spend 3 or 4 times a much to create a “historically correct” bridge? Waiting on that suggestion next…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup, that sounds like it is headed for a showdown between the people who see the route as part of the “foundation” of the neighborhood and those who would like to not have its foundation collapse upon them while using it. Some “roadies” are going to be chained to it if they try to replace it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. jlfatgcs says:

    Great story, and good food for thought. With family in West Chester, I’m sure I have driven over many of those bridges.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bruce, this has been a sore spot of mine forever!! As you probably know Pittsburgh is known as the city of bridges and I hate just about every single one of them for the reasons you outlined. I can’t stand how the powers that be can call these structures “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete’ without laughing. They’ve been using these terms for years. I’m so afraid of bridges but when I used to drive I could pick and choose which ones I would cross, now of course I no longer have that choice and I go bonkers whenever we stop on bridge and fear that I might jump out of the vehicle and run across. I literally begin to panic. My friends have said for years “Steph, bridges don’t just fall” yet none of them wanted to tell me about the one that collapsed a few years back in Minneapolis.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steph, I went to Point Park College in downtown Pitt (many) years back in the day and even then the subject of bridge conditions in Western PA was on people’s lips. That’s actually one of the many things I love about the city but it would be somewhat of a negative for the region if a bridge actually went sliding off into the Three Rivers. Minneapolis is of course a perfect example of what can happen to structures not properly looked after. Those over-the-top definitions of our bridge conditions in PA would be indeed laughable…except they’re accurate.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, and just like Minneapolis, we’d rather be reactive than proactive, if heaven forbid one of our bridges do collapse. It would be one of those deals where “if only we’d have…” and I just can’t hear that because as you say our bridges have been a mess for way too long. I remember back in my hometown a bridge where the traffic was drastically reduced (no trucks of any size allowed). Our science class walked across that bridge to collect some fossils on the other side. The very next week they had to shut down access to the sidewalk because some of the patching fell through to the river. They finally built a new bridge on top of the 100 year old original piers.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Belinda O says:

    Bridges, big and small, seem to be something cities neglect across the nation. Or they repair them and something goes wrong with the repair. I’ve lived in several states and I swear I hear that latter story at least once with each move, too. We continue to drive over them because we have no choice, or the options are to drive over other equally failing structures, and somehow with that lack of choice we convince ourselves it’s okay. Hope it really is.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Belinda O says:

    Now that sounded more negative than I intended…sorry!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. aFrankAngle says:

    Seems the delay, delay, delay approach by the county officials was used to back themselves into a corner. … so hope they are happy. Meanwhile, no need to worry about that half bridge because it means 3 bridges every 2 years.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Beejai says:

    Ancient is such a relative term. I used to live in one of those neighboring “ancient” states but now reside in a place where I am passing daily buildings twice as old as our republic.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. roninjax says:

    Interesting read. I made a trip from Florida to the northeast U.S. last year and photographed some covered bridges. Although many may be in need of repair I’m glad they are still around as part of our history. I plan to write about them in one of my upcoming blogs. I also thought it was interesting about the terms “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete.” I worked for Florida Department of Transportation in recent years and those were terms discussed regularly with the news media. I explained it similar to these comments.

    When a bridge is deemed structurally deficient by bridge inspectors they have documented ongoing deterioration where the structure needs to be replaced typically in about six years. Inspections are increased to monitor the changes. If the structure becomes unsafe then it would be closed.

    Functionally obsolete basically means the structure hasn’t had the upgrades needed to bring to current codes, however, it is not listed as deficient where it needs to be replaced soon. For instance, let’s say a house was built in the 1980s. It is still livable and is maintained – hopefully. The standards (codes) for the house changed over time but the structure didn’t have all the upgrades to meet modern requirements. It typically doesn’t mean the house is unsafe but for varying reasons all upgrades are not able to be accomplished to meet today’s standards – like lighting or guardrails, etc.

    I’m thankful for how Florida maintains our infrastructure. Deficient bridges normally have a timeline for replacement and work is being done regularly on obsolete ones. That’s one reason you seen construction practically along all major corridors in Florida.

    Hopefully the entire nation will be able to see our structures brought to current standards or replaced – which will take years and billions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron, thanks for your insight into this subject, especially with regards to those “definitions of conditions.” I too hope our nation can find a way to bring all of these structures into eventual compliance, or outright replace them.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. kutukamus says:

    [Pic] “Local Traffic Only”? That was still passable? Tell me about horror movies.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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