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By on April 30, 2014

 Corbett’s five-year plan to fix structurally deficient bridges

Workers on Monday drilled core borings to test the condition of the Rothsville Road bridge over Lititz Run.Tall Drill

It is among 39 in the county included on a statewide list of about 4,500 bridges labeled “structurally deficient.”

It’s also one of about 500 on a list to be replaced as part of the Commonwealth’s ambitious five-year bundle plan.

So how can PennDOT finance and accomplish such a Herculean task in such a short period?

Simple. With help from the private sector.

The Rothsville Road span, adjacent to the Millport Conservancy, is included in the P3 Bridge Replacement Program that was signed into law by the Corbett administration in 2012.

The program moved forward in March when four private teams were asked to submit proposals for the project, Greg Penny, PennDOT spokesman said Tuesday.

The unprecedented public-private partnership will be officially forged when PennDOT signs a contract &tstr; expected within a few weeks &tstr; with one of those private construction firms. Construction on the project is scheduled to begin in 2015.

The private-sector partner will finance, design, build and maintain some 500 single- and double-span bridges for up to 35 years.

Since all of the bridges in the P3 program are similar in size and design, the private partner can essentially develop one design to replace all 500 bridges.

Though Penny said the Rothsville Road bridge is not among those to be replaced first &tstr; the project will begin with bridge replacements in the northeast and southwest sections of the state in 2015 &tstr; the work done on Monday will speed up the process in the long run.

“The data from the core borings will be available to whoever bids on the P3 program,” Penny said. “It gives the prospective bidders a little more information on the conditions they will be dealing with.”

In the meantime, PennDOT said the structurally deficient bridges such as the one on Rothsville Road, are not unsafe.

Pennsylvania’s P3 program follows 30 other states that apply some form of public-private contracts. It set up a seven-member board, led by the secretary of transportation, to review projects.

It allows private firms to submit unsolicited proposals, including bridges that may not be on the list of priorities. If the private firm can sell it as a good value, it could be added to the list.

The P3 program establishes that private groups will be paid from the state when construction benchmarks are met in what is called “availability payments.”

Those payments will be based on how well the bridge holds up and how well it’s maintained by the private firm.

Patrick Burns is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

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