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PennDOT: Bridge Weight Limits Could Mean Longer Drives for Industry, Public Safety

As students start heading back to school this year, they may find their bus routes increasing to avoid weight-restricted bridges across the state.

The head of PennDOT says lawmakers will find out in the next few weeks which bridges will be limited to heavy traffic, due to the Legislature’s failure to pass a transportation funding bill.

Secretary Barry Schoch said the restrictions will affect industry trucks, school buses and emergency responders.

"If you want to roughly say 2,200 bridges that are candidates, we might be looking at half of those," he said. "There will be — there will be — additional weight restrictions starting in August coming. There is no choice at this point but to do so."

The 1,100 bridges at the top of the list for weight restrictions are state- and locally-owned.

Schoch said some vehicles may have to add as much as 26 miles to their trips to avoid taking restricted bridges.

Schoch, who has been warning for the past six months that heavy traffic on bridges may be limited to slow down the deterioration of Pennsylvania’s bridges, said weight limited bridges presents an economic issue to the commonwealth.

"Well it’s going to affect businesses," he said. "Anyone that hauls a truck that’s overweight is going to have to drive around it. It could be timber, coal, Marcellus shale, our agricultural products.

Weight restrictions can also create problems for industry and public safety, he said.  

"School buses, emergency services, you can imagine if you live along that Perry County bridge, and emergency services have to go on a 26 mile detour to get to your house, what kind of response time does that add to them?" Schoch said.