TRIP: PA faces $3.5 billion transportation funding shortfall

Roads and bridges that are deficient, congested or lack desirable safety
features cost the average Pittsburgh motorist $892 each year, a total of $8.2 billion statewide, due to
higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays, according to a report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation research group.

Pennsylvania faces an annual transportation funding shortfall of $3.5 billion to meet highway, bridge and transit needs. An increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal level could relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Pennsylvania, according to the TRIP report, “Future Mobility in Pennsylvania: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility.”

The study finds that 58 percent of major roads in Pittsburgh are in poor or mediocre
condition and nearly half of bridges in the area are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
Twenty-six percent of major urban roads in the area are congested during peak times, and the average Pittsburgh driver loses 15 hours per year due to congestion. Traffic crashes in the Pittsburgh area claimed the lives of 75 people in 2008, giving the area a fatality rate of 6.17 fatalities per 100,000 population.
Deficient roads cost the average Pittsburgh driver $892 each year in the form of extra vehicle
operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to
congestion-related delays, and the cost of traffic crashes. The TRIP report calculated the cost to
motorists of insufficient roads in Pennsylvania’s largest urban areas: Harrisburg, Philadelphia,
Pittsburgh and Scranton / Wilkes-Barre.

A breakdown of the costs in each city is below:

VOC         Congestion  Safety  TOTAL
Harrisburg $293         $180             $399     $872
Philadelphia $522         $786            $166     $1,474
Pittsburgh $411          $300             $181     $892
Scranton- Wilkes Barre $478          $180             $342     $1,000
STATEWIDE $2.9 billion $2.3 billion $3 billion $8.2 billion

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Nearly half of bridges and overpasses in Pittsburgh show significant deterioration or do
not meet current design standards. Twenty-three percent of Pittsburgh bridges are structurally
deficient, meaning there is significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports, or other major

Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or are closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency service vehicles.

An additional 23 percent of area bridges are functionally obsolete. These bridges no longer meet current highway design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment with the approaching road.

The TRIP report includes a list of bridges in the Pittsburgh area with the lowest sufficiency rating, including the following:

  • Hulton Road Bridge over the Allegheny River,
  • Babcock Bridge over Girtys Run,
  • McLaughlin Road Bridge over McLaughlin Run,
  • Saxonburg Boulevard Bridge over Little Pine Creek, and
  • Glass Run Bridge over Glass Run.

The TRIP report also includes lists of transportation projects in the Pittsburgh area that
are needed, but for which there is not adequate funding to proceed. They include the following:
preservation and painting of Birmingham Bridge, Liberty Bridge and Elizabeth Bridge,
reconstruction on SR 22, replacing and updating 55 buses to replace and update the fleet, and the
design and construction of a transit center in Allegheny County.

“It is critical that the state adequately fund its surface transportation system so that
Pennsylvania drivers and businesses have a safe and reliable system of roads, bridges and public
transit. Unless the transportation system is adequately funded, the costs will continue to be passed
along to drivers at a time when many can ill afford it,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP, in a prepared statement from the organization.

The SAFETEA-LU federal surface transportation program remains a critical source of funding for road and bridge repairs and transit improvements in Pennsylvania.

With the current program set to expire on Dec. 31, Congress will need to authorize a new federal surface transportation program or extend the current program to allow federal transportation dollars to continue to flow to the state.

“Pennsylvania must improve its system of roads, highways, bridges and public transit to
foster economic growth, create jobs, avoid business relocations, and ensure the safe, reliable
mobility needed to improve the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians,” said Ted Leonard,
executive director of the Pennsylvania AAA Federation.