Legislative inaction prompts possible bridge weight limits, cancels signature megaproject

By Eric Sundquist

While several states successfully passed transportation revenue packages this year, in two states the failure of such bills will have immediate effects on infrastructure.

In Pennsylvania, the Legislature’s inability to agree on a transportation revenue package has triggered a process of tightening bridge weight limits.

With Gov. Tom Corbett’s support, legislators had been moving toward a significant package for highways and transit. The Senate had approved a measure that would have raised wholesale gas taxes, motorist fees, and fines for vehicular infractions. The House, however, could not pass a transportation package, and the budget went to Corbett without one.

PennDOT has published a list of bridges that have weight limits or are candidates for posting, saying it would begin tightening restrictions to extend bridge life if a revenue package was not forthcoming.

After the budget passed without the new revenue, a PennDOT spokeswoman told the (Allentown) Morning Call that the agency is “having … discussions now” about specific weight limit changes.

Across the country last month, the failure of another transportation funding initiative, in Washington, has led to the shutdown of the Columbia River Crossing project. The $3 billion-plus effort would have replaced the existing I-5 bridge and added transit and bicycle-pedestrian facilities between Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA.

The Oregon Legislature had agreed to fund its share of the project, as had the Washington House. But the Washington Senate failed to bring the funding package up for a vote.

The project had the support of both states’ governors, who expressed their disappointment with the shutdown.

Eric Sundquist is Managing Director of SSTI.