Are we spending enough on transportation infrastructure?
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett recently approved a state transportation funding plan that boosts spending on infrastructure and mass transit by some $2.3 billion a year. Survey data show many southwestern Pennsylvanians favored doing so and infrastructure studies suggest why.
Spending more on the region’s roads and bridges is something that 53 percent of the men and women living in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area feel is necessary, according to our Pittsburgh Regional Quality of Life Survey.
Only 6 percent believe less should be spent on transportation infrastructure with the remaining 41 percent holding the opinion that current funding levels are sufficient.
No less than 24 percent of Pennsylvania’s bridges are deemed structurally deficient compared to 11 percent nationwide, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The average bridge age in Pennsylvania is 50 years, eight years older than the national average.
Nearly a quarter of bridges in the Pittsburgh MSA are rated as structurally deficient. Allegheny County has the highest number, but the lowest rate, of structurally deficient bridges in the region.
Such conditions overshadow recent trends that suggest improvement statewide. From 2010 to June 2013, the number of structurally deficient bridges on state roads was reduced from 5,600 to 4,449, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Road conditions are of equal concern. Some 57 percent of Pennsylvania’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.
PennDOT manages 8,000 miles of roads and 300 miles of highway in 10 western Pennsylvania counties and more than 1,700 miles of them are in poor condition, according to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. The SPC also reports that deficient roads, highways and bridges in the region require $7 billion in maintenance costs.
Despite rising in each of the last three years, total transportation spending in Pennsylvania had remained below 2009-2010 levels. The new transportation funding is expected to change that.