DVAED members pose with Les Toaso
(seventh from R), PennDOT District 6
executive director, during the
association’s Sept. 10 meeting
at Stephenson Equipment
in Prospect Park, Pa.
The Delaware Valley Associate Equipment Distributors (DVAED) held its fall quarterly meeting Sept. 10 at Stephenson Equipment in Prospect Park, Pa.
The invited speaker at the meeting, Les Toaso, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 6 executive director, provided for members an in-depth presentation on the state of the Pennsylvania’s bridges, particularly focusing on the recent announcement that weight restrictions have been placed on more than 1,000 structurally deficient spans in the Keystone State.
Pennsylvania leads the nation in structurally deficient bridges and has the eight most heavily traveled interstate system in the United States. The state has approximately 4,500 structurally deficient spans out of a total of 25,000. The weight restriction plan (some spans will have as much as a 20 percent decrease in its capacity), designed to reduce the wear and tear on aging bridges, comes at a time when the state faces an uncertain transportation future. With American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds all but used up and bond sale money spent, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and legislators in the house and the senate have put forth different funding plans to infuse the state’s transportation coffers, ranging anywhere between $1.8 billion to $2.5 billion over the course of the next several years.
Though no agreement has been reached yet on the level of funding, whatever arrives at Gov. Corbett’s desk for his signature will, in effect, be a mere drop in the bucket, in addressing the state’s overall needs for its roads and bridges, which runs in the several billions of dollars to bring all of the state’s roads and bridges up to par.
Toaso, whose district includes Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware and Philadelphia counties, discussed funding alternatives (in addition to whatever emerges from the state government), specifically a raise of the federal motor fuels tax, one that hasn’t seen an increase since 1994. Toaso said that since that time, the cost of reconstructing roads and bridges and building new ones has risen just as the cost of doing business for DVAED member companies has gone up, as well. Toaso added, however, the likelihood of a hike in the gas tax (which is a flat tax) is low considering Congress has little inclination to raise any taxes, with many of its members having also taken a no tax increase pledge to their constituents. When asked how much the average family might pay extra each month if the gas tax were raised, Toaso estimated approximately $6.
Structurally deficient bridges are safe, Toaso said. The designation means that a given bridge has deterioration of one or more of its major components. PennDOT performs approximately 19,000 bridge inspections each year and also oversees the biennial inspection of about 7,000 highway bridges and culverts owned by local municipalities and other agencies. According to Toaso, the weight restrictions will be predominantly monitored by local law enforcement and by the state police when resources allow. Emergency vehicles weighing more than the posted weight restriction for a given bridge will be permitted to use it.
DVAED members consist of constriction equipment dealers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The association’s next meeting, its annual holiday party, is scheduled for Dec. 5 in King of Prussia, Pa.