County transportation group eyes environmental impacts

Transportation officials from the Williamsport Area Transportation Study technical committee met Tuesday to discuss progress of Lycoming County’s 20-year transportation plan.

Mark Murawski, Lycoming County transportation planner, said the focus of the plan will be on maintaining existing infrastructure instead of new projects.

He said that the committee’s goal is to keep area roads and bridges “open and safe” in the face of unknown state and federal transportation budgets.

Murawski said that no major road or bridge projects are included in the plan.

However, a $14 million Lycoming Valley Railroad bridge that connects Loyalsock Township to Montoursville Borough over the Loyalsock Creek should be completed by next year at this time, he added.

The project is being completed with a $2.43 million federal grant and matching local funds from the SEDA-Council of Government’s Joint Rail Authority and other state funding sources.

Murawski said the committee is limited in what it can plan for.

“Based on current revenues, we would support about $250 million for projects over 20 years,” he said. “I’ll tell you, that can go pretty quick.”

While projects such as the extension of Interstate 99 through Lycoming County remain on the 20-year plan, Murawski said there isn’t enough money available.

“A lot of these (kinds of) projects have been included in the past. It takes a lot to get them in,” he said.

Murawski said the plan also will look to improve safety in high-accident areas.

The WATS study now will look at potential environmental impacts related to projects. The results will be presented to appropriate state agencies in October, with a 45-day public comment period to follow, according to Murawski.

He added that legislation will be needed to provide a boost to the state’s transportation funding. One Senate bill proposed would provide about $2.5 billion from increased vehicle registration fees and fines and removing the cap on the state’s gasoline tax, he said.

“We would hope that some legislation gets passed for the state budget enactment,” Murawski said.

Funding to keep the Williamsport Regional Airport’s air traffic control tower open past September still is undecided, he added.

Murawski said that decision rests in the hands of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. A federal subsidy to operate the control tower will end at that time if no action is taken, he said.