Pennsylvania has 54 deck truss bridges of a design similar to the one that collapsed Wednesday in Minneapolis, including on Route 22 near Blairsville in Indiana County and three in Westmoreland County.

Two of the Westmoreland spans are considered structurally deficient, according to a list provided by PennDOT Friday.

All 54 will be inspected either by PennDOT engineers or private consultants at a projected cost of $2 million.

Those with already known structural deficiencies will top the list, PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler said Friday.

He hastened to reassure Pennsylvanians that they were in no danger.

“We know of no reason why these structures are not safe,” he said.

Biehler said the inspections are to comply with a Federal Highway Administration advisory issued Thursday that urged states to inspect bridges similar to the one that collapsed.

Of the 54 spans statewide, 28 are owned by PennDOT and the remaining 26 are the property of a variety of entities including the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and port authorities, counties and some railroads. Many are in the eastern and western ends of the state, Biehler said.

Biehler, speaking from Harrisburg in a statewide teleconference, outlined a plan to determine the condition of the bridges being called into question.

Of the 28 PennDOT bridges, seven have been rated structurally deficient, the result of past inspections. And 10 of those owned by other agencies have received deficiency ratings for a variety of reasons, Biehler said.

One of the state-owned bridges in Westmoreland County is structurally deficient as is one of the non-PennDOT owned, the report shows.

Biehler said plans are to have all 17 determined deficient in both categories inspected by the end of August.

The remainder will be inspected by November, he said.

Deficiencies run the gambit from minor water scouring to what Biehler termed as “something far more severe and heading toward weakening the whole foundation.”

Friday’s announcement is a shift from Biehler’s position in Altoona Thursday at the state Highway Commission hearing, when he urged everyone to wait for the outcome of the Minnesota bridge inspection before acting.

PennDOT officials said they received word late Thursday from U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, advising state transportation departments nationwide to conduct inspections of all bridges similar to the collapsed span.

In that advisory, Peters gave states the option of reviewing recent inspection reports. Yet Biehler said Friday that Pennsylvania will take the most stringent step and conduct actual inspections on all of the bridges.

The inspections will look at three elements of the bridge: The decking – that area which comes in contact with the vehicle; the superstructure – the area holding up the deck; and the substructure or piers – which anchor the bridge in the water or to the ground, Biehler said.

PennDOT will work with the government agencies who own deck truss bridges to assure the inspections, he said.

If the results create concern, those bridges will be altered by use of limited lanes, weight restrictions or closed until they can be brought up to standards, he said.

PennDOT spokesman Rick Kirkpatrick described a structurally deficient bridge as one that is safe, but in need of costly repairs.

Pennsylvania owns more than 25,000 bridges of a variety of designs. Of that figure, 5,900 are structurally deficient, Biehler said.

That number is twice the national average – at 10 to 11 percent – despite an increase in bridge funding up from $260 million a few years ago to $560 million in 2006, the secretary said.

Data from the Federal Highway Administration released Friday show that, locally, Cambria County has 61 structurally deficient bridges, Somerset has 130 and Bedford has 107. None of these bridges is of the deck truss style.





Cambria and Somerset counties do not have any deck truss bridges, PennDOT said Friday, although a handful are nearby:



PennDOT owned



• Indiana County – Route 22 over the Conemaugh River near Blairsville, no known structural problems.



• Westmoreland County – Route 356 over Route 2019 and railroad track, structurally deficient.



• Westmoreland – Route 70 over the Youghiogheny River, no known structural problems.



Non-PennDOT owned



• Westmoreland – Bridge owned by Conrail and Unity Township carrying Monastery Drive near Latrobe, structurally deficient.

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