LEHIGHTON, CARBON COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Officials in Carbon County want PennDOT to pay for damages they say are happening on local roads and bridges due to a major projects in the area.

PennDOT crews have been working on Route 443 in Carbon County since January of last year. A Carbon County Commissioner brought Eyewitness News to East Penn Street. You can see damage to the bridge that he says has worsened since the project began.

“They’re using our bridge and it’s getting destroyed,” Carbon County Commissioner, Rocky Ahner states.

Carbon County Commissioner Rocker Ahner points to potholes and cracks along the East Penn Street Bridge in Lehighton. Damages he says have increased since PennDOT’s $21M reconstruction project on Route 443.

“Just because it’s not an approved PennDOT detour, I think they should be responsible for this. I mean, that’s my opinion. I mean you wreck it, you pay for it,” Ahner added.

The project began in January 2021 and is anticipated to be completed in September 2024. It involves adding a center lane and left-turn lanes to improve traffic flow.

There are no detours for the project but commissioner Ahner says it’s causing congestion, which leads to locals taking side streets like East Penn.

“If we can’t fix this top surface, now all that water’s going to go down in the next two years and it’s going to start destroying the beams underneath. I mean if we can’t work on this now, this is probably going to be a total bridge replacement,” Ahner said.

He says the county has 20 bridges to maintain and they need the money to fix them now before the problem gets worse.

“We’re elected to help the people of carbon county and we need help,” Ahner stated.

Eyewitness news reached out to PennDOT for a response in regards to his claims. They stated in part:

“East Penn Street in Lehighton Borough is not an official detour route for the PA 443/Blakeslee Boulevard Reconstruction project. There are no signs posted directing motorists to use East Penn Street instead of PA 443.”

PennDOT says the East Penn Street bridge is up for inspection this coming fall.

Carbon County Commissioner Ahner tells Eyewitness news he’s been in touch with the Governor’s Office and that a representative will be assessing the bridge sometime next week.