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Did PA's Rapid Bridge Replacement Project Work?

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
PennDOT's rapid bridge replacement project took on mostly simpler, smaller bridges statewide using similar materials and designs to quickly replace aging throughfares.

There are thousands of bridges big and small in Pennsylvania, and many are in need of replacement or repairs. 

The state Department of Transportation's Rapid Bridge Replacement project aimed to simplify those needs, applying cookie-cutter designs and installation processes to 558 aging bridges across the commonwealth. The pilot, overseen by PennDOT's first public-private partnership, allowed for centralized control of a statewide project without interrupting hundreds of additional, often more complex bridge replacement projects to continue. After four years and a few delays, just 47 bridges remain on the docket.

Credit Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
A map shows all 558 bridges slated for replacement during PennDOT's rapid bridge replacement project, which is overseen by the department's first public-private partnership, or P3.

So was it a success?

With the project nearing its end, PennDOT’s Mike Bonini and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette transportation reporter Ed Blazina weigh in on lessons learned and whether similar public-private partnerships could be replicated in other industries.

Elsewhere in the show, opportunity zones were among the new additions to this year’s tax code overhaul, defined by the IRS as economically struggling areas that may be eligible for new investments with preferential tax treatment. Over 1,000 areas were eligible, but only 300 were nominated by Pennsylvania and designated by the federal government earlier this year.

Dennis Davin, secretary of Community and Economic Development in Pennsylvania, says new regulations for those zones are trickling in.

Irma Freeman, the German-born artist who made Pittsburgh her home, left behind hundreds of artworks when she died at age 90. More of her art was found earlier this year and saved from a trash heap and delivered to Freeman’s daughter, Ruth. 90.5 WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll reports on the unlikely discovery of the prolific artist's work.

And WESA's sister station, WYEP, is hosting its annual Holiday Hootenanny at the August Wilson Center tonight. The festive event includes a concert lineup of 20 local acts, after party dancing, a photo booth, on-site scavenger hunt and an appearance by BAMBI's Bowie Claus. Proceeds benefit the Tree of Life Synagogue Fund.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators join veteran journalist Kevin Gavin, taking an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here.

Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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