Pennsylvania’s crumbling bridges are affecting public safety according to state leaders. Since the NBC10 Investigators exposed the problem, state politicians — including a former governor — have called out their federal counterparts to fund a fix.
Pennsylvania passed a $900 million funding bill in 2014 to fix broken bridges, but it only pays for repairs on a quarter of the state’s structurally deficient bridges. The NBC10 investigators found some of those bridges are closed or have weight restrictions. Some are near or next to fire houses.
"At some point you've got to do your job,” Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34th) said. Corman helped pass the $900 million bill to fix more than 500 state bridges. He said the state had to what it could, without help from Washington.
"It was clear they weren't moving very fast and so instead of waiting and allowing our infrastructure to crumble, we went out ahead of them," he said.
The state senator isn’t alone in his concern over a lack of federal funding.
“We would love for the federal government to act," Acting State Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards (D-Montgomery County) said.
“The main villain in this story is the federal government,” former Gov. Ed Rendell said.
Rendell co-chairs the nonprofit group Building America’s Future. The group is a bipartisan coalition focused on America’s infrastructure needs.
"I think they're right. They've done their job,” Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) said. “They need the federal government to do their job now."
Fitzpatrick represents Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District where the Sellersville fire department has to drive six miles around a weight restricted bridge to reach half the borough.
"I'm completely committed to finding the resources to invest in infrastructure and this is the year to do it," Fitzpatrick said.
The congressman voted in favor of every infrastructure funding bill that’s crossed his desk since 2011.
“I think we haven't done a good job in providing certainty about the highway and surface transportation piece," United States Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said.
Toomey has voted against four federal infrastructure bills since 2011. He also worked to pass four bills including the most recent re-authorization of the highway trust fund, a water infrastructure re-authorization bill, and two bills designed to increase airport efficiency and safety.
"If legislation is wasting money, I'm not going to support it,” he said. “You've got to weigh the pros and cons of a given bill."
Senator Toomey and Rep. Fitzpatrick are most concerned with the Federal Highway Trust Fund which runs out in May.
“Doing these highway bills for six months or 18 months or even two years isn't enough," Toomey said.
Toomey and Fitzpatrick are two of twenty federal politicians elected from Pennsylvania. Another, Congressman Bill Shuster (R-9th), is chairman of the House Infrastructure Committee.
“There are significant infrastructure needs in Pennsylvania and across the country, and Chairman Shuster’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has a full agenda this year working to address those needs, including major legislation focused on investing in our roads and bridges, modernizing our aviation system and reducing air travel delays, and improving the efficiency of passenger rail transportation,” Shuster press secretary Casey Contres wrote in a prepared statement to the NBC 10 Investigators.