Troubled Bridges

Earlier this year, the Times Observer reported that 21 of the county’s 65 municipal-owned bridges are in “critical” condition and in need of replacement.

But will the funding be there to replace them?

County officials aren’t so sure.

County Planner Dan Glotz provided the Warren County Planning and Zoning Commission with a local bridge project ranking at its meeting Tuesday night.

“Each year we’re asked to rank the local bridges in order of condition,” said Glotz. He explained that the county contracts with Stiffler McGraw, an engineering firm, to biannually inspect each of the local bridges.

Glotz said that Pine Grove Township has two bridges on Egypt Hollow Road in need of replacement. “One is a three-ton limit. (In) talking with the township, they will do replacements on their own.”

One of those bridges would be number one in terms of need for replacement in the county, he added.

Glotz also said that a bridge on North Road in Freehold Township has been closed “for a long time” and noted that he is “working with the township on solutions to resolve that situation. (It) doesn’t warrant enough traffic in the township to include it on the TIP.”

“TIP” refers to the transportation improvement plan that covers a five-county region, of which Warren County is a part. The county is one of five that comprise a Rural Planning Organization which receives an allocation from the state for projects to be divided among the group.

Glotz said that in past years, Warren County has been able to include three bridges on the 12-year TIP. Now the county can only include one and it “may only get worse.” He acknowledged that might place a financial burden on local municipalities who may have to fund these projects on their own.

“Is it because we don’t have that much traffic that we aren’t getting funded?” Commission member Paul Pascuzzi asked.

“Funding is tight statewide,” Glotz said. “(The) state has not adopted a transportation budget. This is not a situation unique to us. This is statewide. Believe it or not, we are in a lot better shape that some of the counties in our region.”

But there still isn’t enough money to go around.

“We can’t get the funding,” Glotz said. “We’re part of a five-county group. They obviously won’t let me hog it all. On top of that the state and the federal government have cut back on the amount of funding” which “cuts into new projects we can put on the TIP.

“PennDOT’s focus is to focus on projects on the TIP and (they are) saying ‘We’re not sure we have enough money to finish what is there.'”

“It just doesn’t look good for transportation funding,” he said, noting that he participated in a PennDOT planning partners session in Harrisburg on those issues.

He said the focus federally will be on the federal highway system. “We only have (Routes) 6 and 62 on the national system,” Glotz said.

“There is a big concern that we can’t come up with the funding to (complete) the projects we have,” he noted, saying that the number of deficient bridges statewide was staggering.

He said the county commissioners asked him to come up with some options for how the county can utilize its Act 13 allocation. One of the options is for bridge programs. “I have been getting information from other counties that are using Act 13 money for bridge programs,” he said, reminding the commission that the county commissioners have final say over how the money is spent.