LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Pennsylvania has the third-largest number of bridges in the nation.
But how many of them need repairs and how much is it going to cost to fix? Eyewitness News took a ride with the man who knows bridges like the back of his hand to find out.
We drive over them every single day. No matter if the bridge is big or small, new or old, they are inspected the same.
Eyewitness News took a ride with Larry Plesh, the Luzerne County engineer, to check out the conditions of different county-owned bridges. Cracks, pack rust and even old guiderails were all found.
In Sugarloaf Township, the East County Road Bridge is brand new, while just a couple miles away, the Walp Road Bridge is under construction.
At some point all bridges need to be replaced, with more than 300 in the county. The number of those structurally deficient may surprise you.
“There’s probably about 200 that have a flaw,” Plesh said.
If a bridge is structurally deficient, it means there are elements of the bridge that need to be monitored and/or repaired.
Some remain open with a weight restriction, like the Kisenwether Road Bridge in Sugarloaf Township. Others need to be closed like the Water Street Bridge connecting Pittston and West Pittston.
“It’s 107 years old. Everything to it has been deteriorated over the years. Suction loss, rusting, the bearings don’t work anymore, they’re half the size they used to be,” Plesh said of the Water Street Bridge.
The Water Street Bridge is a truss bridge and a fracture critical bridge.
“Which means if one side of the bridge goes, the other goes,” Plesh said.
With many of our bridges structurally deficient, are drivers safe?
“For the most part you are. There’s no reason to think that you can’t cross a bridge,” Plesh said.
Every bridge gets inspected every two years. Some more often after certain weather events. But Plesh says there’s no such thing as a perfect bridge.
“We just had a couple initial inspections of bridge inspections. You can look it over top to bottom, you’re always going to find a crack or something that wasn’t done quite right and it takes it to the next lower rating,” Plesh said.
Some county bridges along Nescopeck Creek are so old they have wooden decks and can only accommodate one car at a time. But as long as they pass inspection, you’re safe to drive over them.
To learn more about the condition of bridges near you, visit gis.penndot.gov.