Pennsylvania’s $900m bridges PPP behind schedule

The delay has driven up the project’s costs, but the transportation department still believes the deal will save the state time and money.

Pennsylvania’s Rapid Bridge Replacement project – a $900 million PPP that bundled repairs on 558 structurally deficient bridges – is behind schedule.

Work on 279 bridges has been completed so far, with 95 more under construction, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The original proposal expected 432 bridges to be finished by the end of August.

“Some of the bridges proved more complex than originally thought,” a PennDOT spokeswoman told Infrastructure Investor. “This is also true with right of way issues that weren’t identified until appraisals were done. Permitting and utility issues, likewise, have been challenging.”

The project was awarded in October 2014 to Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners, a consortium comprising Plenary Group, The Walsh Group, Granite Construction Company, and HDR Engineering. The team was tasked with the design, build and finance of the bridges along with their maintenance for 25 years in exchange for availability payments.

PennDOT and PWKP have reworked the contract, with the state incurring $43.5 million in added costs. PWKP also saw “significant additional costs”, according to PennDOT.

Even with the delay, PennDOT sees the PPP agreement bringing benefits. Bid out separately under traditional procurement, each bridge was expected to cost an average of $2.1 million. The contract revision, PennDOT said, “is not unusual and not unexpected when a complicated large project such as this moves through construction”.

“When the project is complete, [the bridges] still will have been delivered in an accelerated fashion and with a 25-year warranty on the finished bridges, as was the original intent,” said the PennDOT spokeswoman, adding that they hope to complete the project by the end of 2018.

Pennsylvania passed a law authorising PPP projects in 2012.