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Civil engineers give Pennsylvania low marks on infrastructure report card

By Lou Gombocz, Jr., WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 08:15:27 AM CDT
Updated On: Jun 26 2014 05:00:04 AM CDT

Engineers grade area bridges

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

 In one of four statewide press conferences Wednesday morning conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Pennsylvania’s infrastructure received poor marks that included seven D’s, six C’s, three B’s and no A’s from over 55 experts from the four state sections of the ASCE.

The near simultaneous press conferences were also held in the commonwealth’s other major metropolitan areas including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg. 

The ASCE revealed results from research gathered by engineering experts in 16 categories of which Pennsylvania received the following grades:

* Roadways and wastewater systems…D-
* Drinking water and transit systems…D
* Storm water removal and inland waterways…D+
* Dams, levees, and school buildings…C-
* Energy resources and their output…C
* Ports sustainability and solid waste…C+
* Parks and hazardous waste…B-
* Freight rail infrastructure...B.

Civil engineer Scott Stenroos of Keystone Consulting Engineers of Wescosville and Bill MacNAir, past president of the Lehigh Valley section of the ASCE chaired the event where Lehigh Valley experts in the area of roads and bridges, water and sewer, transit and planning made brief presentations and remarks.

Stenroos said, “Seven grades of D are unacceptable” and explained the goal of Wednesday's report card is to emphasize the ongoing need for state and federal investment dollars for Pennsylvania’s infrastructure.

“We need to keep the momentum going," he continued, “And staying proactive is important and awareness is the key."

The “momentum” Stenroos was referring to is Act 89, a transportation funding law passed by the state legislature last November designed to fund roadway infrastructure projects with higher gas taxes and motorist fees.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Engineer Mike Rebert said Act 89 is “a huge asset for the department”, referring to PennDot.

He added due to Act 89 each local municipality over the next five years will receive 60 percent more in revenue to repair and improve roadways and PennDot will have the funds to undertake an additional 200 more projects over the next five years.

Although Act 89 provides for billions of dollars for infrastructure repairs in Pennsylvania, the engineers and local experts agreed that would not be enough to repair all that needs repairing and upgrading in the state.

According to Joe Gurinko,  director of transportation planning for the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, “Underinvestment is the reason we (Pennsylvania ) have the worst bridges.” Although Act 89 makes funding more accessible, we need a balanced infrastructure program, he said.

MacNair noted, “One-quarter of the commonwealth’s bridges currently are structurally deficient , the highest number in the nation.”

However, PennDot is planning to replace over 600 bridges statewide over the next five years, said Rebert.

Earlier this year, PennDot announced plans for a Route 22 widening project in Lehigh County between 15th Street and Airport Road in Allentown where traffic is notoriously congested.