Pennsylvania is one of the oldest states in the US, with complex and built-out infrastructure through roads, bridges, and other transit pathways. Bridges are essential in the hustle and bustle of Pennsylvanian citizens and economic travel, but not all are treated equally in the state. Some of the Commonwealth’s bridges are in top condition, while others — like in these eight counties — require serious attention from government officials.
From crumbling supports to broken concrete, unstable bridges can range from unpleasant to traverse to downright dangerous. Read on to learn which counties in Pennsylvania have the worst bridges and everything you need to know about careful crossings.
The Worst Bridges in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s expansive traffic network contains more than 23,200 bridges throughout the Commonwealth. Of these many structures, 3112 (about 13.4%) are ranked poor and in dire need of structural attention. The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) defines “poor” as meaning that one or more of the bridge’s key elements are at or beyond critical condition.
While this number is down from the 3770 bridges in Pennsylvania that required fixing in 2018, state regulators have far to go to restore their infrastructure. Only 77 of these structurally deficient bridges lie on a federal interstate, meaning 91.5% of bridges fall under the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction. These unsafe bridges impede vehicle, truck, and rail traffic to key points of interest throughout the state and risk drivers’ lives at their worst.
Pennsylvania officials project that repairing the 12,1777 bridges that need some maintenance or corrective action would cost $19.2 billion. This includes both bridges in critical condition and structures that barely pass inspection.
1. Luzerne County
In Luzerne County, 450 bridges carry drivers and traffic over creeks and roads to their destinations. Of these 450, the USDOT ranks a stunning 27.1%, or 122 bridges, in poor condition and in need of corrective action. The Federal Highway Association (FHA) considers the same amount as structurally deficient, with another 54 needing critical, immediate repairs.
Some of the worst bridges in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County include:
- The I-18 Northbound across W. Foothills Drive precariously supports 19,648 cars daily and hasn’t been repaired since 1981.
- The I-80 that travels west over Route PA 93/TR93/Exit 253 sees a whopping 37% of its 18,782 daily crossings as truck traffic, which risks heavy loads and further structural damage.
- SR 2004 which bridges River Street over Mill Creek requires urgent correction of its deck geometry and is only barely sufficient in its structural integrity.
2. Allegheny County
Alleghany County holds 1294 bridges, with about 25.9% requiring corrective action, per the NHA. The USDOT ranks 122 bridges in the county in poor condition, with nearly 1% of bridges closed in the last two years. Another 781 bridges in Alleghany are in mere fair condition, meaning they could disintegrate into worse states at any moment.
Of all the bridges in Pennsylvania’s Alleghany County, some of the worst include:
- The Boulevard of the Allies bridge across CSX RR and Bike Trail sees over 21,000 cars daily — the local highway agency estimates bridge repairs to cost over $1.2 million.
- The N Avenue and Brighton Road bridge that spans N-S RR-Alleghany Park sees another 21,000 daily drivers that risk dangers crossing. Its structural components and deck geometry are considered “basically intolerable.”
- The Penn Avenue that spans the East Busway N-S RR supports 19,728 drivers daily but hasn’t been restored since 1981.
3. Bucks County
The USDOT evaluates Bucks County, Pennsylvania, as having about 17.36 of its 674 bridges in lousy condition. Approximately 117 of the area’s crossings are structurally deficient, with 23.9% requiring some amount of corrective attention. While Bucks County is home to where George Washington’s army famously crossed the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War, they would need to be careful using bridges to do so today.
Some of the worst bridges in Bucks County are:
- The Commonwealth’s state highway agency maintains Dublin Pike over Buck Creek, which must address fixes and restore safe passage for the bridge’s 19,431 daily travelers.
- Buck Road’s bridge over Mill Creek requires deck geometry and structural repairs estimated to cost approximately $144,000.
- The Butler Avenue bridge over North BR Neshaminy Creek carries over 13,000 daily cars across the water, with 4% of this traffic consisting of heavy load trucks.
4. Montgomery County
Per the NHA’s inspections, Montgomery County must repair 186 of its 825 total bridges, about 22.5% and nearly a quarter of all such structures. The USDOT rates about 13% of local bridges as poor or structurally deficient. Another 20 bridges are currently closed by the state as inoperable.
Among Montgomery County’s worst bridges are:
- The Ridge Pike over Norfolk Southern RR sees over 36,000 cars daily. However, it hasn’t been restored since it was built in 1936.
- Belmont Avenue’s crossing of Schuylkill River requires repairs from Montgomery County’s local highway agency, especially as it supports over 32,000 drivers daily.
- The Old Welsh Road bridge over Pennypack Creek carries high volumes of drivers — over 31,000 each day — despite the advanced deterioration of its structural components.
5. Berks County
Berks County, PA, holds 669 bridges within its borders, of which 105, or 15.7%, rank as in poor condition per the USDOT. These structurally critical bridges are a part of the 20.6% of total bridges requiring some form of corrective action. Unstable or deteriorated bridges present a danger to drivers. Moving slowly and staying aware of your surroundings when crossing an unstable bridge is important.
Drivers should be cautious of some of these worst bridges in Berks County, Pennsylvania:
- The State Route 78 over Hausman Road needs significant repairs to support the 45,000+ car crossings it experiences each day. About 31% of this traffic is trucks with heavy loads, making the bridge even more dangerous.
- The Washington Street bridge over the Norfolk/Southern Railroad was first built in 1882. It’s only received some reconstruction in 1964 and needs some serious repairs today.
- Antietam Creek’s Gibraltar Road bridge features an intolerable structural evaluation, with several bridge components having considerably deteriorated since its building in 1980.
6. Schuylkill County
Nearly one-third of Schuylkill County’s bridges are considered structurally deficient. Per the USDOT in 2022, 103 of the region’s 369 bridges required some repair, clocking in at 27.9% of the total structures. Drivers must cautiously traverse nearly 16,000 square meters of unstable bridges in the county due to neglected infrastructure repairs.
Some of Schuylkill County’s worst-maintained bridges are:
- State Route 2015 over Schuylkill River risks dropping any of its 4,779 daily drivers into the waters below due to its needed structural repairs.
- The US 209 bridge over Port Carbon was originally built in 1922 and, to date, has yet to receive any repairs, even though they’re critically needed.
- PA 443 over Pine Creek requires serious corrective action, with repairs estimated to cost $243,000.
7. Chester County
Per NHA estimates, 173 of Chester County’s 679 bridges require some corrective action or repairs, approximately 25.5%. The USDOT ranks another 100 of these bridges in poor condition, with critical structural deficiencies. As one of Philadelphia’s neighboring counties, Chester sees hundreds of thousands of cars each day. These cars rely on the bridges’ structural security.
Some of Chester County’s bridges that need immediate restoration include:
- The Conestoga Road bridge over Branch Pickering Creek sees 10,651 travelers daily, yet its structural integrity requires immediate repairs.
- Officials restored Downingtown Pike’s bridge over Valley Creek last in 1972, but advanced sections of the deck and superstructure have since deteriorated.
- Boot Road crosses over the Amtrak railway in Chester County but hasn’t been fixed since it was built in 1964. About 9% of this bridge’s traffic are heavy-load trucks.
8. Westmoreland County
Due east of Pittsburgh, Westmoreland County contains 619 bridges within its borders. Of these, 100 bridges received a poor rating from the USDOT, clocking in at 16.2% of such structures. The NHA evaluated another 4 in this list that require serious corrective repairs or pose a risk for vehicles utilizing them.
Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania’s worst bridges by traffic count include the following:
- State Route 3007’s bridge over State Route 0070 features a structure in critical condition and requires repairs by Pennsylvania’s state highway agency.
- Logan Ferry Road over Haymaker Run is a local bridge that sees over 6,300 cars daily.
- The State Route 0136 bridge over the Youghiogheny River, also called the West Newton Bridge, was first built in 1907. Despite some reconstruction in 1984, the bridge requires high-priority repairs.
Summary of the 8 Pennsylvania Counties With the Worst Bridges
|Number||County||% of Poor Bridges|
|6||Schuylkill County||27.9 %|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com
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