The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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September 3, 2013

Eight Somerset spans hit with weight limits

JOHNSTOWN — Anyone planning to drive a heavy vehicle throughout Somerset County should make sure the route isn’t impacted by the state’s decision to post weight limits on bridges stretching as far north as Route 30 to Meyersdale in the south.

In all, eight bridges owned by PennDOT in Somerset County, which in the past had no weight restrictions, will no longer be available for use to larger, heavier vehicles, especially tri-axle coal trucks and tractor-trailers.

Cambria County has one state-owned bridge impacted by the new limits. It is located on Route 160 in Summerhill Township, according to a list provided by PennDOT.

PennDOT District 9 has a total of 26 state-owned bridges in its six-county region that will be posted to weight restrictions, said Tara Callahan-Henry, community relations coordinator.

It is part of a statewide effort to slow the rate of deterioration and ensure safety, PennDOT officials said in announcing the restrictions.

The list of impacted bridges number about 1,000, and while safe for some vehicles to cross, are considered structurally deficient.

It is all about money and a lack of increased revenue to address the crumbling bridge and highway problem in all 67 counties, said PennDOT chief Barry Schoch.

“PennDOT is taking this step because legislative inaction on transportation funding left uncertain the department’s ability to repair or replace these bridges,” Schoch said in a statement. “The lower weight limits will help extend the service life of these deteriorating bridges.”

Most impacted will be loaded tri-axle trucks and tractor-trailers including bulk milk tank trucks.

While in some instances the restrictions allow trucks access when empty, when loaded, drivers will be forced to find alternate routes.

For all of the impacted bridges in Somerset and Cambria counties, the restrictions will still allow access by fire trucks, ambulances and school buses, all weighing less than 30,000 pounds, Callahan-Henry said.

The new weight limits go into effect when the signs listing the new limits and possible alternative routes are in place, she said.

When that will be remains an unknown.

“We may be able to start getting some up this week,” she said. “They will be permanent signs. The postings aren’t going to be taken down until the bridges are fixed.”

Callahan-Henry said Penn-

DOT will issue public announcements when the bridges in Somerset and Cambria counties are posted.

Still waiting for further action is a list of bridges owned by counties and townships, which are being given weight limits.

The spans are inspected by PennDOT and those considered deficient will be posted, Callahan-Henry said.

“Locally, things are changing,” she said. “Posting on local bridges will take place at a later date after PennDOT discusses these changes with local bridge owners.”

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