Road builders

SHAMOKIN DAM -Local lawmakers, state Department of Transportation and other officials gathered Tuesday afternoon to laud the new transportation law’s authorization of $558 million over 10 years toward the completion of the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway Project at the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re going full speed ahead – it will be done,” said PennDOT Secretary Barry L. Schoch.

State Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said it’s been a long time coming, and is the “largest project in the last 50 years.”

“After 40 years of false starts, the thruway will soon become a reality,” Yaw said. “This is a smart, strategic transportation investment in our region that will create hundreds of jobs and bring relief to thousands of motorists traveling daily along US 11/15.”

The 13-mile project will be the construction of a new, four-lane, limited-access highway that will connect Route 147 near Montandon to Route 15 near Winfield; and will connect Routes 11 and 15 just north of Selinsgrove, said Matt Beck, assistant plans engineer for PennDOT.

The project’s first piece will be construction of the $100 million mile-long bridge over the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Northumberland and Union counties, below Ridge Road near Mertz Meat Market in Point Township. Bids will open in August 2015.

The entire project is projected to be completed in 2024.

Jim Barbarich, chamber board chairman and interim president, said the project has been three decades in the making and the bill is about safety, jobs and economic development.

“This is key for companies relocating here,” he said.

The thruway will solve traffic congestion issues in Union, Snyder and Northumberland counties, said Joe McGranaghan, chairman of the thruway task force.

Schoch said nothing on the state level can derail the project, but hopes for no severe federal funding cuts.

Yaw addressed potential concerns of businesses that the thruway’s diverted traffic will yield less business to the area.

He cited studies that the traffic shift actually will benefit area businesses, as the current congestion is undesirable for motorists and shoppers.

State Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, said the same fears were present when Interstate 180 was built, yet the Golden Strip (East Third Street in Loyalsock Township) has prospered.

Everett said while the project isn’t in Lycoming County, the area still will benefit as there will be lighter truck traffic on Route 15 here, as well.

Everett said the section of Route 15 from Selinsgrove to Lewisburg is the only section of Route 15 from the Maryland border to the New York border with traffic lights and not a four-lane limited access road.