Roads & Bridges
Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests operate and maintain 860 vehicular bridges and hundreds of additional pedestrian bridges to move visitors across rivers and streams.
The typical design-lifespan of a vehicular bridge is 50 years. In some cases, one bridge may provide the only entrance to a park. Nearly 1 in 4 bridges within state parks and forests is used by school buses and residents living on private property within the boundaries of the public lands, and almost all have been used at some point for emergency vehicle access.
If such a bridge fails, so does the local economic engine
feeding nearby shops, restaurants, and other businesses, and countless residents’ and visitors’ lives are impacted. The U.S. Highway Department estimates that one in every three bridges in the country is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.xxiv
NACE International. Highways and Bridges. (Accessed on 7/14/2017)
The amount of vehicular bridges maintained within PA state parks and forests
is the lifespan of a typical bridge
1 in 4
The number of bridges used by school buses and residents
Scenic driving is the third most popular outdoor recreation activity according to the most recent Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).ii
The roads within our state parks and forests are used for such a pastime, as well as for access to hunting and fishing.
With nearly 3,000 miles of public-use roads (plus many more thousand miles of gated roads that staff use for patrolling and access for maintenance and natural resource management) inside our state parks and forests, potholes, gravel ruts, washouts, and crumbling asphalt are a known part of routine maintenance.
Weather conditions, the amount of traffic, and other factors affect the lifespan of a road; however, on average an asphalt road will last 15 years before it will need to be rehabbed or reconstructed , with a total average lifespan of 40 years.
The majority of Pennsylvania’s state forests are served by gravel roads.
Gravel roads are less expensive to build, but must be regularly restored to extend their lifespan. Research shows that for every $1 spent on gravel maintenance will save or delay spending $6 to $10 on future road rehab or construction costs.
Deteriorating roads can still be used, so they are often seen as not as critical as a broken water main or fallen bridge.
Yet a poorly maintained road creates negative public perceptions that may limit return visits, and can cause polluted runoff entering our streams and other waterways. Inadequately maintained roads may also create wear and tear on vehicles or cause a vehicle to break down, creating an emergency situation to which park or forest staff will have to respond.
Engineering.com. How many years is the average life time of standard asphalt pavements? (Accessed on 7/14/2017)
MPR News. Gravel or Pavement? (Accessed on 7/14/2017).
Adams County, Colorado. Gravel Road Resurfacing Program. (Accessed on 7/14/2017)
of public use roads can be found within PA state parks and forests
is the average lifespan of an asphalt road