Public-private partnership to expedite replacement of 558 structurally deficient bridges

    In this file photo, a welder fabricates anchor bolts for roads and bridges at the custom manufacturer in Pennsylvania.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    In this file photo, a welder fabricates anchor bolts for roads and bridges at the custom manufacturer in Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    The biggest project yet under the public-private partnership law will replace 558 of Pennsylvania’s 4,200 structurally deficient bridges by 2018.

    The biggest project yet under the public-private partnership, or P3 law, passed in 2012, will replace 558 of Pennsylvania’s 4,200 structurally deficient bridges by 2018. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has released the final list of bridges, whittled down from 2000, and has reached out to private companies to submit bids for the project. PennDOT says this approach will get the job done quicker and more economically. 

    Typically, bridges are replaced one at a time, through a bidding process, and PennDOT maintains those bridges. But the P3 law allows for the bridges to be bundled and handled by a private company. The chosen developer will manage the project, overseeing the design and construction of the bridges, and will maintain them for 25 years before turning that responsibility back over to PennDOT.

    Erin Waters-Trasatt, spokeswoman for PennDOT, says in a recent pilot project where this approach was taken PennDOT saw savings of 30-40 percent. It’s “because you’re doing design once for multiple bridges,” she said. “So, because they can use the same standards, they’ll be sourcing things from likely the same suppliers, and they can bring the same elements to the same area, we expect to see similar savings.”  The list consists of similar, relatively small bridges distributed throughout the state. Construction is expected to begin in 2015 and end in 2018, with bridges in northeast Pa. and around Pittsburgh being the first to see construction. The chosen developer will have the responsibility of hiring contractors and consultants to complete the work, something PennDOT says should benefit Pennsylvania businesses.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.