Brace yourselves.

PennDOT has been hesitant to release their bridge ratings for the state’s bridges as per here:

A Democratic House committee chairwoman is upset with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials for refusing to release numerical inspection scores for 54 steel deck truss bridges in Pennsylvania. Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Philadelphia, wants state Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler to come before her committee today and explain the numerical scores — ranging from a low of 0 (meaning very poor condition) to a high of 9 (excellent) — for each steel truss bridge, the same design used for the Minneapolis Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed last week.

She said PennDOT apparently is afraid that the motoring public won’t understand what the numbers mean and that releasing them might cause “undue concern.”

Being faced with the Right to Know law, PennDOT now says it will release bridge ratings for all to see.

Burghers, brace yourselves.

The fact that they didn’t want us to know, coupled with the fact that they don’t want to cause “undue concern” tells me that we’re going to be freaking the hell out because that report is going to look something like this:

  • Fort Pitt Bridge:  1
  • Homestead Bridge: 2
  • Smithfield Street Bridge: 3
  • Liberty Bridge:  Are you kidding me?
  • Rankin Bridge:  Holy Shit!  How did this happen?
  • Parkway East Overpass complete with netting and regularly falling concrete type material:  -250

Not to be all gloom and doom, but we’re all going to die.


  1. BBM
    August 7, 2007 1:58 pm

    I really, really wish I hadn’t followed the link. I drive over a bridge that was rated a 2.0 every day. A 2.0. Out of 100.0. I scared.

  2. toni
    August 7, 2007 2:01 pm

    It doesn’t surprise me that PA has the worst of all bridge conditions, after all we are a state with many and a city that has more bridges than any other in the US. I would think that they would have ONE helluva big lawsuit for not disclosing this information, especially if a bridge does come tumbling down. Of course that is very cold comfort to the families who would have lost loved ones in such a tradgedy.

  3. Pensgirl
    August 7, 2007 2:21 pm

    I don’t want to scare people any more than they already are, but I have it on good authority that PennDOT doesn’t use Federal road-building specs, but, rather, its own. Which, essentially, is why PA roads start getting potholes about half a day after they finish a road construction job.

    If PennDOT applies the same concept to bridges, well….

  4. Mia
    August 7, 2007 2:29 pm

    That’s it. I’m going to buy one of those duck vehicles that the Duck Tours use and drive across the water and avoid all those death traps I drive across every freakin day!

  5. toni
    August 7, 2007 2:49 pm

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    By Tom Barnes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    HARRISBURG — The state Department of Transportation has reversed its stance on releasing structural-safety ratings for the 25,000 bridges it owns throughout the state.

    PennDOT Secretary Allen Biehler told a House committee today that the ratings, which go from zero (the lowest, most unsafe category) to 9 (the highest rating) would be released within a few weeks.

  6. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    August 7, 2007 3:33 pm

    Pensgirl is on the right track regarding materials used in PA for roads, but the federal specifications for the actual buidling and design (as opposed to materials used in construction) are the minimum specification. The feds set the floor, not the ceiling. Most states go beyond the federal minimums, but are many are hampered with archaic procurement standards that were last updated in the 60’s.

    Unfortunately, federal law doesn’t mandate the use of quality materials leaves a lot of the construction details to state law. Pennsylvania’s procurement laws (similar to a lot of states) don’t award contracts for public works based on the quality of the materials. It uses a standard known as “lowest responsible bidder” which usually ends up being the the guy who submits the lowest bid. As anyone who’s done a remodelling project has learned, the cheapest prices is also usually the cheapest quality. There are ways for public entities (same procurement rules, for the most part, apply to cities and municipalities as well) around these requirements, but it’s a really difficult process.

    Having dealt with several state transportation and federal highway agencies in a former life, I can tell you that probably all of the engineers, architects and construction managers at these agencies would love greater flexibility, but attempts to change these types of laws legislatively have been effectively thwarted by business interests, who are obviously looking out for their bottom lines.

  7. yinzernation
    August 7, 2007 9:20 pm

    I love that contraption on the Parkway East. Instead of just foxing the damn bridge, they built a permanent platform to protect motorists from falling debris. Genius.

  8. yinzernation
    August 7, 2007 9:21 pm

    uh…meant “fixing” not “foxing”. Freudian slip.

  9. thejim
    August 7, 2007 11:23 pm

    It’s a testament to modern engineering that the Rankin Bridge is still standing. I feel like I need a tetanus shot every time I drive over it.

  10. Char
    August 8, 2007 10:29 pm

    The Fort Pitt Bridge is not a 2, but the Forbes St ramp off Blvd of the Allies is. And so is the Hulton Bridge. (Oakmont) And McArdle Roadway.

    Check out this site:

    It tells you what’s what for every bridge everywhere.

  11. spoon
    August 9, 2007 9:05 am

    Personally this is my favorite bridge…

    Gudgeonville Bridge
    Place: Girard (Township of)
    Facility Carried: T-400,GUDGEONVILLE
    Feature Intersected: OVER ELK CREEK
    Bridge Material and Design: Wood or Timber Truss – Thru
    Sufficiency Rating: 15.3 %
    Structural Evaluation: Basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action
    Structure Length: 25.6 meters
    NBI Structure Number: 257207040040080
    This bridge is Structurally Deficient

  12. Wade
    August 31, 2007 1:57 pm

    And now McCardle is closed, cutting off a convenient short cut to the Southside. I wonder how many other bridges will be closed instead of fixed?