The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Friday, 24 January 2014 13:19cat

Pennsylvania To Use P3 Contracts To Fix Aging Bridges

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Pennsylvania plans to replace 500 bridges starting in 2015 Pennsylvania plans to replace 500 bridges starting in 2015 Bill Wade/Post-Gazette

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to replace 500 bridges in the state starting in 2015, and the majority of these bridges will be built under public-private partnership contracts.  Currently 4,200 bridges, or 18% of the state’s bridges, are structurally deficient. This figure is 11% higher than the national average.  This should not be too surprising, however, because the average age of a bridge in Pennsylvania is around 50 years old.  Also, the majority of the bridges listed as structurally deficient require only minor repairs, or they are deteriorating and might need weight restrictions in the future as a result.  All of the bridges are safe, but PennDOT has identified 300 bridges that they would like to use public-private partnerships to replace.  Under a public-private partnership, a private company or team must design, build, and maintain each bridge.  PennDOT will pay the team based on their performance.

A public-private partnership law was passed in Pennsylvania in 2012 and new transportation funding legislation was passed in November.  The new transportation bill increased bridge and highway spending by $2.3 billion.  These laws made public-private partnership contracts the best option for most of the bridges being replaced.  PennDOT is hoping that the similarity among many of the bridges to be redesigned will accelerate the completion time for the entire project.  Rather than designing each bridge individually and then having contractors bid on the project, the winning company will be in charge of the entire project and will be able to use similar designs on many of the bridges.  This will also reduce the overall cost.  Over 150 companies including contractors, engineers, and financial organizations attended the November presentation detailing PennDOT’s plan.  This created a lot of buzz in the construction industry, and contractors are hoping these projects will create many new local jobs. 

Companies interested in overseeing the program must submit their qualifications by January 31.  Then, PennDOT will invite qualified companies to submit proposals and the best proposal will be chosen.  The winning team must be willing to maintain each bridge for up to 40 years, but it cannot charge any tolls to use any of the bridges.  This will force contractors to consider maintenance costs as well as construction costs when designing each bridge.  PennDOT is expecting construction on 50 to 100 bridges will start in 2015.  The bridges being rebuilt will be chosen after the contract is awarded.    

Sources: The Times TribunePost-Gazette

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