Pennsylvania's new law uncapping the wholesale fuel tax will help to double the number of bridges that the state Department of Transportation will replace.
And the state's 2012 law allowing PennDOT to partner with private companies will help to accelerate the schedule to replace hundreds of structurally deficient bridges.
The uncapping of the fuel tax – which could lead to a price hike at the pump for consumers – is expected to result in an additional $2.3 billion in revenue for the state by the fifth year of the plan that was signed into law last month by Gov. Tom Corbett.
Known as the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project, private companies will reconstruct at least 500 bridges of similar design – about 200 to 300 more than originally anticipated. Some of the bidding for the projects will be done in groups of bridges, as opposed to the longer process of bidding on each individual bridge.
Bridge replacement work could start at the beginning of 2015.
"This is an example of having a tool to improve and strengthen our relationship with the private sector," PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said this morning. "Overall, it's an example of making sure we are economically strong and able to address our large bridge problem in Pennsylvania."
In September 2012, Corbett signed into law the Public and Private Partnerships for Transportation Act in the state. This law allows PennDOT and other state agencies, transportation authorities and commissions to partner with private companies to participate in delivering, maintaining and financing transportation-related projects.
The state will continue to handle the day-to-day maintenance of the transportation projects but allows the private contractors to handle the major maintenance. It also leaves room for the state to partner ideas with the private companies for ways to continually enhance and improve the transportation system in Pennsylvania.
The selected companies will manage the bridges' design, construction and maintenance under one contract to streamline design and construction activities. Cost savings are anticipated since the same basic design and construction standards can be used for multiple bridges.
"This is a tool, not a cure-all for the Pennsylvania transportation system, but it will allow us to expand existing services and provide new ones," Waters-Trasatt said.
Interested companies must submit their statements of qualifications to develop, design, build, finance and maintain a portfolio of replacement bridges.
After qualifications are reviewed, PennDOT will invite teams to submit proposals for the project next spring, it said. The department then will pick the winning bidders.