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Pennsylvania has 5,000 structurally deficient bridges

When buy a new home, one of best features is that all of the major systems are new, and will not require maintenance or major repairs for years. But, sadly, one day, that roof or furnace will no long be new, and you will have to come up with a significant pile of cash to replace your roof or buy a new furnace.

The bill for deferred maintenance, however, is coming due. In the early part of last century, the first “modern” roads were built in the eastern half of the U.S., and the most significant highway construction, the interstate highway system, are now approaching 60 years in age. In addition, deteriorating and inadequate highways will be carrying more traffic, which is likely to result in more car accidents.

A recent analysis of America’s 600,000 bridges finds that Pennsylvania has more than its share of structurally deficient bridges. A structurally deficient bridge is not likely to collapse soon, but it is not in good shape. A least one important structural element has been found to be inadequate in some way.

In many cases, it can fixed, but that is often a complex assessment, that needs must examine the age of the bridge, the extent of the repairs, and whether it would be better to replace the entire structure.

And while maintenance and replacement are discretionary, the aging is not. Every day a deficient bridge remains unrepaired, the worse it gets as weather and use continue to abuse and degrade it.

Moreover, Chambersburg residents should note that the author of the report singles out I-81 as being an exemplar of the problem. Pennsylvania, with 22 percent deficient bridges, ahem, leads the nation.

We can continue to put it off and ignore the problem. As the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis in 2006 demonstrated, if we ignore it long enough, the bridges will go away.

The Washington Post, “Mapping America’s most dangerous bridges,” Christopher Ingraham, February 4, 2015

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