County presses local municipalities to replace or repair deficient bridges

More than 60 locally-owned structurally-deficient bridges in Lycoming County need to be replaced or repaired according to county officials, who said the cost to fix them is more than $28 million.

Some townships have multiple bridges in their jurisdiction that are on the county’s list of bad bridges. Lewis Township, for example, has four bridges that need to be replaced and one that needs to be repaired. The estimated cost to fix them is $3.9 million.

Five Penn Township bridges are on the list. It would cost more than $2.4 million to fix them, according to information provided by Lycoming County.

Franklin Township also has five bridges on the list with a corrective pricetag of about $2 million.

“I think it’s safe to say it’s an issue of critical concern for all Lycoming County citizens that these bridges be paid attention to,” said Commissioner Jeff C. Wheeland. “It’s a public safety issue.”

Commissioners expressed the need for repair and maintenance of local bridges at a countywide township supervisors forum Tuesday evening.

“The county commissioners are looking to be a facilitator working with our partner municipalities to coordinate replacement and repair of the municipal-owned structurally-deficient bridges,” he said.

Overall, the bridges in question represent less than 9 percent of the more than 700 bridges in the county. However, the 63 deficient bridges also represent about 31 percent of locally-owned municipal bridges.

Money to fix the bridges is in short supply.

Of the $5 million of federal funds for bridge projects allocated yearly in the county, the state Department of Transportation uses all but $500,000 of it, according to Mark Murawski, county transportation planner.

It would take 60 years to fix deficient bridges with that amount of money, he said.

Wheeland said local municipalities can work with the county to make their bridge repairs more efficient.

He said townships can place a group bid on several bridges among their boarders at one time to save money.

“If nothing is done, the list will continue to grow,” Wheeland warned. “It’s a Rubick’s Cube that we have to put together to secure the funding. That’s why it’s imperative that the county partner up with these municipalities to help them.”

Lewis Township Supervisor Charles S. Brannaka said money for bridge repair is hard to come by.

“It’s exorbitantly high, and there’s no way we can come up with those kinds of funds,” he said.

Brannaka said the township recently repaired a bridge on Truman Street.

“We haven’t gotten where we can set anything aside yet. We’re lucky to do what we did,” he said.

Bill Burdett, Loyalsock Township manager, said that the estimated $1.17 million to upgrade three bridges in the municipality is only that – an estimate.

A bridge on Sheridan Street already is under repair.

“We are looking at our options. A lot of that, our staff has the capability to do that type of work,” he said. “Those figures are if I hire an engineer to design it and a contractor to repair it. I work for the township supervisors, and we have our way of evaluating things. We’ll do what we need to do to make our roads safe.”